View Full Version : Spata...so no it's Open??

2nd Apr 2001, 13:10
So now, that they say the Airport in Athens is finally open how are things going down there??
What is the approach like?? Anyone flown it yet?
I also hear that the maintenance hasn't moved from Hellinikon and it's not planning to for at least 6 months. So what do they do??

G-XX...finals and hopefully land!

[This message has been edited by MikeSierra (edited 02 April 2001).]

2nd Apr 2001, 13:25
Story on the Beeb this am about 'chaos' there. I missed most of it, but I think the computers were issuing boarding gates for the old LGAT! Not forgetting the rumoured 2 hour drive over rubble strewn roads from Athens, lack of train connection..........

It would be nice if airline managements were proactive on this one and not reactive, as loads of problems have only been highlighted by the 'sharp-enders' who are operating into it and the whole thing seems to have caught our 'clever ones' by surprise.

Any info from flight crew ppruners would be very useful for others.

Cream Crackered
2nd Apr 2001, 15:15
There's a worrying flight safety notice at work about spurious EGPWS "terrain alerts" on both arrival and departure. A software fault in the database - not the airport's fault.

2nd Apr 2001, 18:11
This is a long post. I thought that an insider's point of view with no ulterior motive might be of interest. According to my friend's words "this airport is being operated by a private international company with no prior experience and that's the problem. It is not operated by the CAA. They seem to be trying to learn about how an airport is run by trial-and-error." Top that with inadequate preparations in terms of intercoms and local area telecoms, insufficient training of the baggage handlers, murhy's law applied at the gates, road access and ample but expensive parking that everyone ignores and you get chaos.

This is his account:

<<The Day After at HEW/LGAT and ATH/LGAV airports... It may be emotionally loaded and I apologize for this, but I could not help it... My hands are shaking while writing these lines, and it's not only due to the 34Hrs shift that I just completed...

Before I start, just a few bits about me. I worked in LGAT between 1989 and 1996. I now work for a computer company that specializes in aviation software. So 99% of our clients were (of course) at the airport. Naturally we were involved first hand in the airport transfer.

LGAT 27 March 2001, 12:00...
The Day Before. Arriving at the airport to unplug and pack the computers of our clients. Backing up their data for the last time in LGAT... People still rushing up and down, packing equipment, offices, papers, archieves... The airport is still alive. Some offices are already deserted by their users, but there are still hundreds rushing up and down.

27 March 2001, 15:00...
We are ready to cut-over the system of one of our biggest clients. The computer that will be used as the transfer device is ready to get the data from their Network server. After that, it will be moved to the new server already at our LGAV server room. But the LGAV network is not ready yet...Most of the network outlets do not work and 90% of the computers cannot see the server. The airport infrastructure is build in such a
way so that one is able to connect and work on one side of the airport while the server is on the other side simply by using the airport's own optical cable system through a service provided by the AIA called VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network). Very smart, very nice... If only it worked ok... The technicians of AIA are doing their best to make it work. They only have a few hours. Everything looks ok in the plans and should be working, but practically it doesn't. Murphy's law! I am still at LGAT, waiting to receive the 'OK' from my colleagues at LGAV that our VLAN works and proceed with the cut-over. Time passes. This is the same Network that the AIA Check-in computers
are connected to, and seems to be the big problem of the new airport...

LGAV 28 March 2001 14:40...
The first a/c to the (still) empty LGAV is about to land. I rush out to the apron with the camera... Sh*t! The a/c will land on 03L and I don't have the time to get over to the other side... Geeeez...This airport is HUGE!

LGAV 28 March 2001 14:45...
The first flight is landing...An Olympic Airways A340-300 (SX-DFA, Olympia) is the
first aircraft to land at the new airport. The flight is arriving from Toronto and Montreal and is planned to park at gate A13... Right in front of me! But, hey! He passed A13... Where is he going?... What's going on here? Oh, no...The aircraft is taxiing down to B11!...Why?!...The boarding bridge on A13 did not start!! YES, that's right! This BRAND NEW Boarding bridge failed BEFORE IT'S EVER USED! The stand coordinators originally allocated A13 as the parking stand for this flight. When they were informed that the boarding bridge doesn't work they allocated A11 (still right in front of me!)... But the officer heard B11 istead...Now, imagine the tower... They had A13, then A11 and finally the aircraft was taxiing to B11! Shortly afterwards there followed a ferry B737-400 (SXBKA) from LGAT.
Aircraft are starting to arrive... Some arrive empty from LGAT, others that departed operational from LGAT are returning to their new home...
But why is everybody landing on 03L ? No landings on 03R...Damn! I have 03R right in front of me... 03L is on the other side
and the aircraft don't even pass through my visual path as they park at the satellite and the remote stands...(They are a LOT cheaper than the MTB and of course the airlines prefer them).
In the mean time, the convoys of tracks are arriving, bringing the equipment from LGAT.

LGAT 29 March 2001, around 12am...
The Day After...Empty rooms...Empty Terminals... Empty Gates... Empty Apron... Simply Empty...One can access areas that, when the airport was open, would require a pass...I have to drop off my wife for her last shift in LGAT... The rest of the company's staff have already moved to their beautiful new offices at LGAV. She is the last to still be there, in an empty airport for 8 hours until the last equipment is packed and gone...I park the car... Right in front of the departures hall... Hey... Any Police around to write me a ticket? Hey guys (and gals!)... I have parked in a no parking zone... Anyone ?....Someone ?.... Nothing... NOONE... Hmmm... Where are the Airport Mascots? Yes those nice cute dogs that accompanied the passengers... I didn't see them around. Have they moved on along with the rest? Have they understood that the airport is now empty and noone will be there to give them some food and pet them ?
Into the check-in area... No lights... No electricity !!!! Everything's dark ... And empty...You can hear the echo of your voice... A horrifying echo...Down to the basement to the CAA offices, the NOTAM office etc... Basically empty...
Just a couple of CAA employees unplugging the last of the equipment, and a few
employees of handling agents that are still doing shift in a deserted airport.
Out in the apron... So empty and silent!... Walk around to the separation area... Deserted...Complete silence... You can only hear the wind blowing through the metal constructions...A few hours earlier this area was so noisy you could not hear yourself think... People rushing up and down, loading baggage onto baggage carts, tractors rushing through the separation corridor and carrying the baggage to and from the aircraft...
Aircraft... 43 parking positions at the East apron... Empty... Only the birds are still there...Maybe having a party. The airport is now theirs!
Into the arrivals... Same emptiness. No electricity here too. The banks at the arrivals hall want to empty their tills and safes... But they can't do it without power. So CAA promises them that they will give them power for a while.
Arrivals basement, airline offices... Same emptiness... Noone around... Tears broke through my eyes... The areas that have worked with so many people for so many years are now empty and deserted. The airport is standing there like a ghost-town! I only worked at LGAT for 7 years... I can imagine how staff that worked there all their lives feel...

LGAV 29 March 2001 13:00
The new airport is alive... Oh, well... Kinda... It seems to be struggling to remain open!
While approaching the airport, rushing down Attica Road at 120Km/Hr (wow!), I notice a Lufthansa A321 landing on 03L while at the same time the DHL A300 is accelerating for take-off on 03R...Dual runway operations... But only for take-offs... The ILS of 03R is not yet certified because of some obstructions...
Hmm... Let's see how a passenger feels... Down to the arrivals level, left and into the short term parking (Loooong queues
sometimes reaching 30mins wait just to get in).
Up the elevator to the Departures level... Wow!... The airport is full of life! Long queues are already formed in front of the
check-in counters. The staff of the handling companies are trying to make the check-in systems work...
It seems that the same problem we had with our VLAN network sockets exists in much worse version at the check-ins!!!!
50% of the check-in terminals don't work. So out of the 170-something check-in counters, only half work.
Now... Add the East AND West terminal passengers of the old airport together and throw them into the same (huge) check-in area!...You can get the picture. The passengers, are calm and seem to understand the situation, patiently waiting. Patiently ? Well...Yes...Until they discover that their flight is either cancelled or delayed over 5hrs!!!
What the Media have shown is only half the truth... The reality is worse!
Check-in computers failing one after the other. Conveyor belts failing... The automated baggage sorting system fails
within the first 2 hours of operations!!!! It seems they tested it with small luggage of about 5-10 kilos... But the passengers
carry luggage of 20, 30 and sometimes 40 Kgs! A huge number of baggage is rejected by the system and they have to be
sorted manually... Then, a few minutes later the system just stops! Now all the baggage will have to be delivered to the
sorting area by hand using trolleys and the airport elevators!!! This is the most advanced and automated airport in Europe!!!
But there was another problem... Irrelevant to the airport operations but I have to point it out. Simple folk from all over Athens NOT TRAVELLING, suddenly thought, "Hey, we have nothing better to do, let's all go over to Venizelos and shop!". We are talking hundreds or even THOUSANDS of people that came to the airport at the very first days just to have a look and shop!!! I mean...come on you people! At least 30% of the congestion in the check-in area was produced by those people!!!
How does the airport look?... Just like any other BIG European airport... Without the "warmth" of LGAT, it does not have anything to make it different from Munich... Passing trough the check-in into the departure area...Nice...Spacy.Information screens everywhere and signs to direct you to
your gate in no time...
Arrivals... Spacey... Many conveyor belts that will (in the future) provide the passengers with their luggage fast.
No chairs in the arrivals waiting lounge.

Let's now go behind the scenes... To the areas where the passengers cannot see...
Some offices and areas in the airlines and handling agent offices are not yet finished. Many pass-operated automatic doors (they all have electronic locks that open with the airport pass card) do not work. Staff have to walk to the next one which in some cases is situated 500m away!
Only 1 hour after the first official landing the airport had a black-out for 1 hour!... And when the power was restored, many offices remained with no power for over 6hrs until someone from AIA went and reset the fuses!...
There are several companies that still do not have their SITA connections transferred from LGAT to LGAV... It may take several days
and until then they have double shifts in both LGAT and LGAT... There are a lot of other things I could mention, and none is good... But I will not, since it will a negative advertisement for some companies.

There are a lot more problems that must be solved. I am confident that they will be solved in due time and the airport will function as it should. What frustrates me is that they opened an airport in a rush (like everything in Hellas), without taking into consideration all the aspects and consequences...
The pitty is that the major operator of the airport, Olympic Airways, is having most of the problems. And it's NOT all OAs fault this time! Staff are working at the airport out of shift for 16 and some even 24hrs to make things work. But they get one thing fixed and 2 more get down!

31Mar01, 22:18LT
I just heard on my scanner that the ATC does not have their Weather Data tranfer working properly!!! An a/c just asking about TS development got that reply...

(Th)ink Rate! Don't (Th)ink! Don't (Th)ink!

2nd Apr 2001, 18:27
Yep it's all true!
I was there last week Wednesday to Saturday (intended to come back Friday but because things didn't work I couldn't) and was putting in 17-19 hours a day.
OA passengers trashed the VIP/CIP/Business Class Lounges, fights in the check in area ,problems with the Common User Terminal Equipment CUTE gateways for host DCS -check in/weight&balance systems-services).
Too much beaurocracy (I never could spell!) and everyone running away from problems thinking they will (the problems) just disappear.
I was lucky and eventually got everything (I.T. wise) to work(well the bare necesseties at least), thanks to SITA and AIA staff who were extremely overloaded.
I have never seen such chaos and problems on the systems side of things like this before anywhere in the world; and I have been there, done that and worn the tee-shirt when it comes to airport systems.
Don't point fingers at the staff - look at the politicians! This airport could have done with a little more time, all round.

3rd Apr 2001, 00:12

I flew in and out on Thursday, i didnt see anything to upset me.............

Is this a case where u dont want to leave your local airport?????


3rd Apr 2001, 13:04
My original thread, posted on the 28 March, about the last events before airport opens, seems to have been highjacked in favour of this later one. Here is the story from the BBC, mentioned earlier by FL Mitty:


But someone thinks it is OK!

"The opening of the new Athens Eleftherios Venizelos Airport can be considered an overall success," stressed Dr. Wilhelm Bender, Executive Board Chairman of Fraport AG (Frankfurt Airport Services Worldwide), who participated in the official opening celebrations several days ago. A team of about 30 Fraport specialists has been supporting AIA during the first opening days of Europe's newest major international airport, which has been built on a greenfield site at Spata near Athens, Greece.

Fraport AG is a shareholder and chief consultant of the new Athens International Airport S.A. airport company, which operates Athens Eleftherios Venizelos Airport. Since June 1996, over 300 Fraport AG experts have supported and helped build up the AIA company. Furthermore, Fraport AG has provided airport management and operations training to almost 400 AIA staff.

"This is an airport built to world standards. The high motivation and preparedness of the AIA staff will help make Athens' new airport an international success," said Dr. Bender. The Athens-Spata Airport has two runways that can been fully and simultaneously utilised. With a current capacity of about 16 million passengers per year, Athens-Spata Airport can be expanded to about 50 million passengers annually. Thus, Athens-Spata Airport is well positioned to become an air transportation hub in Southeastern Europe."

Well, that's all right then!

[This message has been edited by newswatcher (edited 03 April 2001).]

3rd Apr 2001, 14:15
I assume it must therefore be FAG's Baggage Reconciliation System as well then?
Hmm,, perhaps this gentleman can explain why hundreds of bags didn't make their flights on opening day(s) then. Or will he blame the links the SITA CUBES?

beaver eager
3rd Apr 2001, 14:55
I passengered back from a week's holiday in Athens on Fri 30th, the second day of operation.

The Taxi driver was almost hysterical due to the traffic and distance from town, but that's another story.

I'd had a bad cold for about 4 days (Why does it have to happen when you're on hols?), and needed to buy more asprins. Knowing that a brand new international airport would have more pharmacies than food counters, and as it was raining, I elected to delay buying the said asprins until arriving at the airport.

Guess what? There was only one pharmacy in the whole place and it wasn't due to open for four days, there were people in there, fininshing the shopfitting but they would/couldn't sell me an asprin or two.

Just a little example of how not to open a new airport, but it wound me right up at the time! In the end, a kind gesture from someone else in the information desk queue, provided a pill that I was unable to recognise the brand of, but was assured it was the right sort of thing. I accepted gracefully, but decided against taking it preferring to suffer until on board the flight (delayed, of course) and airborne, when two paracetamols were procurred from the excellent EoG cabin staff!

Nice marble floors everywhere though and the air conditioning works well - it was bloomin freezing!

7th Apr 2001, 23:50
I have never heard such a load of unmitigated crap as Flt. Lt. Walter Mitty wrote. This airport as I write (Saturday 7th April) is running like a sewing machine and has been for at least 6 days.
OF COURSE there were teething troubles...if the expectaion was that it would open without any, then i'm sorry, that view is totally unrealstic. What Cute problems.??
There were very few. Let's just say one particular airline had a lot, and everybody else had none, zero, zip, Oxi.
It took a couple of days to bed in, and as far as the baggage system is concerned...there were stoppages due to totally unsuitable baggage being sent doe\wn the belt by some airline staff. A huge re-education programme has resulted in no stoppages in the past 6 days.
The opening was the best in any green field airport ever including Denver (Delayed 18 months) Hong Kong (least said about that the better) KUL, KIX, and the new Inchon airport was closed again after a few hours.
God knows how long it took you to write the posting, but I can tell you it is so slanted and inaccurate it is not true. What axe have you got to grind.
I was there also to see the A340 arrive, and the Jetty was NOT U/S. The airline staff who were there had simply run the unit out of limits. A simple reset would have fixed it. Embarrasing though none theless, but not the Airport's fault.
As for the illegal parking etc etc...true, and the visitors...true, but look at it today. Estimated 800,000 including pax, came to see it. Which airport is built to accommodate that mob.?? They aren't there this weekend.
Please, please, write with some undertsanding of what you are talking about, or keep silent. Your post almost had a flavour of a wish that the whole thing would fail, so you could say that "I told you so"
Well..... I know, and this is NOT the case...at least with the airport.
The contributor who said that the airport opened with a whole load of people who did not know what they were doing...inexperienced and the like, is doing a HUGE disservice to the many. many, many, fine professionals who were there and made it happened.....Walter Mitty is certainly not one of them.
By the way, NO BRS is installed at Spata at all, so where the mention of it came from I do not know, and also, the story about the computer system punching out boarding passes witht the old Hellenikon gates on them is true. BUT..it was the airline host that had not been changed. Good planning eh.??
I won't say which airline, but as Walter Mitty is so connected, he can tell you.
It most certainly NOT the fault of CUTE, which is simply a gateway to the Host (Airline) main system. Nobody else had a proble...maybe they simply planned ahead a bit.
There were three MAP's on the first day.
These were as a result of the onboard databases not being updated to take account of the hill at the end of 21L being chopped off.!! BA, SR and I forget the other swiftly made adjustments and that was the end of it. None since. I suppose you will blame that on the airport company.

[This message has been edited by Taildragger (edited 07 April 2001).]

9th Apr 2001, 16:29
Taildragger, relax man!

No one here seems to have an axe to grind against anything or anyone else. It is just experiences that we are discussing. Don't get so defensive. There are facts here like
1) The goverment should never have opened the airport in the first place, with no public transport in place (this is indeed the most serious issue here).
2) The company's operations (the one which faces most of the problems) are mostly run on personal mobile phones (and we're talking flt deck here), info current Sunday pm. Now, I do not care whose fault this is, but the problem is there.
3) ILS03R not certified/not used. VORDME03R only applies as an IFR procedure on this one. Not a major problem, but it's there. A little note on the side: If you take off from 21L you'll probably get the same uncmfortable feeling about that hill at the other end, too close for comfort.
4) Not enough policing around the front entrance for parking offenders, not adequate marshaling of the parking lots. Result: took up to 1 1/2 hrs to leave the airport, totally unnecessarily, mob or no mob. Remeber, it's Greeks you're dealing with

Teething problems? Sure, ok. We all understand. This is a good airport that the whole of Europe should be proud off.

On this, it's not "us" against "them"...

(Th)ink Rate! Don't (Th)ink! Don't (Th)ink!

9th Apr 2001, 16:42
Wow! I feel honoured! Not only do I not understand most of all that but I almost wish I HAD written it all!

9th Apr 2001, 19:37
No problems with CUTE? Hmm, so how come very of the gate printers didn't work? Why - because WINNT (as opposed to IBM OS2)works differently at the CUTE staff failed to configure 'dummy printers in Windows.
Old gates on boarding passes as host issue! Rubbish!
ATB and other boarding passes take boarding gate information from an area in the flight record which can be anything you put in as a user - there is no check for validity in any host.
No BRS - How come airlines were asked to provide BSM's etc. if no BRS?

9th Apr 2001, 19:44
No problems with CUTE? Hmm, so how come very of the gate printers didn't work? Why - because WINNT (as opposed to IBM OS2)works differently at the CUTE staff failed to configure 'dummy printers in Windows.
Old gates on boarding passes as host issue! Rubbish!
ATB and other boarding passes take boarding gate information from an area in the flight record which can be anything you put in as a user - there is no check for validity in any host.
No BRS - How come airlines were asked to provide BSM's etc. if no BRS?

10th Apr 2001, 03:33
Our company aircraft passed through and got a pull up ,terrain etc from GPWS. Could be a little offputting at night/IFR

10th Apr 2001, 12:29
Yep no BRS. The BSM's are needed for the sorter. No BSM, the bag goes to the problem bag chute and has to be sorted manually. Currently around 85% and rising, of bags have BSM's. BRS will go in later in the year, and of course, uses BSM's also. I repeat, Gates are a host issue...Cute as you know is simply a gateway.
Only one airline experienced this problem and no rpt no others had a problem in this area.
Not being defensive (Honestly) but the airport has had soooooo much undeserved criticism recently which should have been directed elsewhere, that I just want to put the record straight. Put it down to the enormous hours that I and so many others who wanted to see this airport work, put in over the first few days. We are proud of the achievement. I think you will agree that airport operations wise, all has gone remarkably smoothly.
Everything going great right now, and has been since three/four days after the opening.
Curbside is fully now under the control of the Police who have finally sat up and taken notice, and last weekend was a joy to see.
The number of tickets issued would use up a forest the size of a small African country.
And it showed with the lanes in front of the Terminal running smoothly, except for tourist buses which is being addressed.
So.....If you are in ATH E-Mail me and I will gladly buy you a Mythos and chat about it.

12th Apr 2001, 14:20
Thanks to Taildragger, who indeed put a grand tour together for me and a Mythos where his mouth was ;) I had a first hand experience in taking an operational look behind the scenes at Athens Venizelos.

I had the opportunity to witness the operation of the world's most advanced, fully automated, fully redundant baggage security system (I understand only one other such system is installed worldwide and that's in the US) and baggage handling system.

Tight security all round, run by proffessionals in close and surprisingly harmonious co-operation with the local police.

Airport staff doing continuous walk-arounds, pinpointing and fixing any discrepancies, or bottlenecks and generally improving on the spot what can be improved to achieve the original design standards. Very polite, too!

The CAA have been offloaded by many un-related chores that they had to put up with at the old place so they can now concentrate on their core-business.

Check-in desks smoothly operational, on a demand-assigned-multiple-access principle.

No traffic problems inside the airport, the traffic police and parking marshals are now doing a cracking job in "educating" the Greeks on how to behave :rolleyes:

Aprons seem to function ok. Olympic Airways maintenance facilities look impressive, together with their HQ but still quite a way to go. These alone should bring OAL on a different level. The quicker OAL makes the most out of the new situation the better it will be for the company's future.

It was evident that most of the problems were -and some still are- due to the habits and outdated infrastructure that was carried over from old Ellinikon. These, quite naturally, hit the airport's largest operator. It shouldn't be long before they get it up to speed.

A lot still needs to be done to make the place look cosy and attractive and tidy up the scruffy-looking cafes around departures.

Don't you dare try to leave the airport to the south yet, which is where about 90% of the ground staff and aircrew live. You'll probably have to spend about an hour discussing social injustice and other makroeconomic theories with cute little gypsy kids, stuck in traffic around the narrow country lanes of Koropi wine-country. Wait until they finish something that resembles a road first. :rolleyes:

(Th)ink Rate! Don't (Th)ink! Don't (Th)ink!

12th Apr 2001, 20:41
Ta.... Yep travelled through the Gipsy colony last night in a long queue.
The light sequence was a staggering 4 yes FOUR seconds....that needs to be fixed.
Tomorrows session with the Cops.
Anytime Greg ....happy to spread the word.