Greece’s Tourism Minister, Vassilis Kikilas, is set on building up Thessaloniki as the Aegean nation’s next hub airport. During a ceremony earlier this week to commemorate five years of direct Emirates flights between Athens and Newark, Kikilas invited the UAE-based carrier to discuss the possibility of adding Dubai to the New York route, with a stopover at Makedonia Airport.
Kikalis has noted the northern port city’s potential for establishing an international hub that targets the Balkans region.
Makedonia Airport currently connects to several cities across the Balkans, including Belgrade, Zagreb, and Tirana, though a broader range of flight connections could bring additional traffic.
Minister Vassilis Kikilas believes Thessaloniki could become an essential gateway for the Balkans region in Southern Europe.
“Residents of Balkan countries prefer to travel abroad through Thessaloniki,” Kikilas told local media. “Makedonia Airport has been significantly upgraded. Investments in the hotel industry are ongoing. The city’s port is connected to the airport for check-in and transportation of travellers’ luggage, while cruise travel, particularly for the port of Thessaloniki, is up by 250 percent this year, demonstrating the city’s dynamics.”
Pre-pandemic, Thessaloniki was one of Aegean Airlines’ focus cities as it looked to expand outside of Athens, with plans to link the airport to six new international destinations and two domestic ones. While travel restrictions may have briefly put those plans on hold, Thessaloniki is set to see a revitalization this summer with an industry recovery in full swing.
Emirates has served Greece for 26 years, connecting over 4.5 million passengers on more than 15,000 flights between Athens and Dubai. In 2017, Emirates extended that service to New York, improving international connectivity in Greece.
Kikilas used the event to praise Emirates for its contribution to the country’s tourism sector and the facilitation of trade and transport the Athens-New York route has provided for the economy, emphasizing the strong bilateral ties between Greece and the United Arab Emirates.