Quarrels among giants can be toughest on smaller players. That is true in aviation as in other fields, where UK-EU disagreements may harm an important supplier relationship for a small Greek airline.
Based in Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki, and flying seven Boeing and Airbus narrowbodies to destinations in Greece and Eastern Europe, Ellinair does its own line maintenance at its base, explains Chief Operations Officer Thanos Pascalis. “We outsource heavy maintenance, C checks and higher, as well as specialized tasks that cannot be be performed on the line,” Pascalis says. The young airline does have its own continuing airworthiness management organization, so all engineering, planning and airworthiness activities are done in-house.
Pascalis has no plans to bring heavy maintenance inhouse, “at the moment.” He does want to increase the carrier’s line capabilities, but C checks and materials for C checks will continue to be outsourced.
The Ellinair COO thinks the airline’s own fleet has been well supported. Technical dispatch reliability in June and July on Ellinair’s owned and leased aircraft was above 99.3%. “Our A320-family aircraft have worked hard and been well looked after.” Unfortunately, wet-leased capacity on Boeing 737s has not performed as well.
All this is being done with a very small engineering and maintenance department, only 23 technical staff. As Ellinair is adding an A320 in December, Pascalis will increase this headcount marginally.
In addition to its base in Thessaloniki, the airline is considering adding one more Greek base in the future.
However, Pascalis says a number of maintenance challenges exist, especially for a small airline based outside the main Athens area. “Staff are hard to get, as the market is limited but the quality of the candidates cannot be compromised.”
On the supply side, Ellinair has a flight-hour agreement with AJW in the UK, which Pascalis says has worked very well. But “we are worried about the effects of Brexit and possible customs issues with the UK.”
Procurement functions outside of the AJW contract are critical to Ellinair’s efficiency. But Pascalis says his procurement team of two procurement people is “best in class.”
For repairs, Ellinair has developed good relationships with a few local providers that have worked very well. Nevertheless, “the lack of options due to our location is not helpful,” Pascalis says.