Where Time Stood Still: Exploring Athens’ Abandoned International Airport

Aug 16, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Under the hot Mediterranean sun and behind an array of overgrown bushes, trees and tumbleweed, a sign written in both Greek and English points passengers of the past to “Departure Buildings”. But no one is departing. Or arriving. This is Hellinikon International Airport, the abandoned former airport of Athens, which is now frozen in time to almost two decades ago.

Much of the airport site is off limits to the public, but I was given special access to take a closer look at the former hub of Olympic Airways.

IMG_0235.jpg

The approach to the terminal was eerie and resembled an apocalyptic movie set, with graffiti-emblazoned decrepit structures still standing. Parts of the airport could still be distinguished as— entrance to the facilities, luggage storage building and the departures door.

IMG_0226

IMG_0224

IMG_0241

The main terminal hall was designed by famed architect Eero Saarinen, who also designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC, and the famed TWA Hotel at New York’s JFK Airport.

The “safe bag system” ad was still on display, showing pricing in Greek drachmas, which stopped circulating in 2002, replaced by the euro.

IMG_0249

Also on display was signage about how to make it from the airport to the city.
IMG_1053

The unique aspect of this abandoned airport is that several aircraft of the Olympic Airways fleet are still parked on site. Sadly, they’re far from being ready to fly and are sitting there, rotting, under the hot sun.

IMG_0545 2

Facing the Aegean sea, you can see an Olympic Airways Boeing 747-200, Boeing 727 and Boeing 737.

IMG_0257

Olympic Airways, which later became Olympic Airlines, was the Pan Am of Greece. In 1956, the Greek government sold the airline to Aristotle Onassis, the shipping tycoon and later husband of Jackie Kennedy, tce. On April 6, 1957, Olympic was born.

The airline served international routes across the globe, including the important Greece-Australia market, beginning Boeing 707 operations between Athens and Sydney twice weekly via Bangkok and Singapore.

In 1973, Onassis sold the airline to the Greek state. Following the sale of the airline to the government, financials started to deteriorate.

9384ECDC-C166-4A34-B97A-BCE5B9277355

The company went on to face serious financial trouble from the 1980s, mostly due to management problems. Olympic eventually ceased operations in 2009. And while the brand lives on as Olympic Air today, as a regional subsidiary of Aegean Airlines, the airline is no more.

Now, the abandoned jets at the former Athens airport still wear the six Olympic rings in their full livery.

IMG_0266

Valuable aircraft parts, including the engines, were removed prior to storing at Hellinikon.

IMG_0382

Despite the lack of care, the 747 still looks as impressive as ever — and its condition doesn’t appear too bad, despite the lack of any TLC.

a2a0f8b3-62e0-4b1a-83f0-54a765f4f843

This Olympic 747, registered as SX-OAB, first flew in 1973, making it more than 45 years old. It was transferred over to Aerolineas Argentinas for a few years, before returning to Greece to continue flying for Olympic, bearing the name Olympic Eagle.

IMG_0295

Stored near the 747 was an abandoned Hellenic Air BAC One-Eleven. Like its 747 neighbor, the aircraft also had its engines and other valuable parts stripped from it.

IMG_0292

On the taxiway, you could see remnants of what operations looked like when the airport closed. For example, a stack of inflight magazines that were ready to be loaded on to an Olympic jet can be seen heat-worn on the tarmac.

IMG_0535

From what I could see, the main terminal buildings were the most damaged areas of the airport site.

IMG_1057

IMG_0557

IMG_1055

However, inside the terminal, original stickers for British Airways Euro Traveller and Club Europe check-in — economy and business class respectively — were still visible. British Airways flew a variety of aircraft to Athens, including the now-retired Lockheed Tristar, which flew to Hellinikon during the late 1980s.

IMG_0247

Still standing tall was the air traffic control tower, which once controlled the busy flow of aircraft departing and arriving at Hellinikon.

IMG_0559

The Olympic terminal still retained its original sign with 2001 — the year the airport closed its doors for the last time — still showing.

IMG_0983

If you’re driving around this area south of Athens, you may be surprised to discover that the old terminal is still sign-posted, including for international, domestic and arrivals halls.

A62B7D93-6516-4A2B-8FC4-5D496B49404F.JPG

This visit was a unique experience, and it’s hard to believe that this derelict, vast site was once a prominent player among world airports. Athens has, of course, a new airport, which retains the ATH three-letter code.

All photos by the author.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card

This card from Bank of America gets really interesting if you have a BofA checking, savings or investment account. Depending on the value of your combined accounts you can potentially get as much as 3.5x points on travel/dining and 2.625x points on other purchases making it the richest consumer banking bonus out there.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Receive 50,000 bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
  • No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire
  • Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center
  • Get up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits + valuable travel insurance protections
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Low $95 annual fee
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.