Counting almost two decades of business, Cyprus-based air charter group Zela Aviation is heading into 2023 with many plans for the future that include an expansion in the Greek market.
“It was a natural step for Zela Aviation, after being based in Cyprus, to expand our presence in Greece and be closer to our Greek clients, suppliers and Europe in general,” Zela Aviation Group Chairman Andreas Christodoulides said.
GTP Headlines caught up with Zela Aviation’s chairman and got the latest on the company’s plans for the Greek market – plans that include growing the company’s private jets services and expanding its helicopter business in the country.
With over 30 years in aviation, Mr. Christodoulides also gives us insights on how he sees the industry evolving in the future especially after the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused the biggest shake up in air travel for a long time.
- GTP: Mr. Christodoulides, please “introduce” Zela Aviation to us. When did you start your business venture?
Andreas Christodoulides: Zela Aviation has been a well-established company for the last 17 years, specializing in ACMI, aircraft leasing and sales as well as charter flights, where its main base is in Cyprus. We have branch offices in Greece, where we are currently expanding, and the UK. The company was created by myself with the support of a highly qualified team of aviation professionals, proving results of 17 consecutive years of aviation services and solutions to airlines and tour operators worldwide.
Zela Aviation has been able to build relationships with its clients and suppliers of airlines from all different continents around the world. This has given us a very international platform base to work with. Aviation is so diverse and this is one of the reasons I love my job and aviation in general. Over my career in aviation I have been able to meet and work with a wide variety of individuals from all over the globe. I take this as a life experience as I am able to connect and socialize with different communities. Zela Aviation gives me this for which I am grateful for.
- GTP: You mentioned that the company is expanding into Greece. We would love to hear more on this.
Andreas Christodoulides: Currently, I am here in Greece expanding our office in Athens in order to help the tourism and the economy of Greece. For many years, we established solid business agreements in Greece for operating aircraft to numerous touristic islands in order to serve and assist foreign tour operators in the best possible way. It was a natural step for Zela Aviation that after being based in Cyprus, to then expand our presence to Greece and be closer to our Greek clients, suppliers and Europe in general. I made this decision in 2019 to expand into Greece with our Athens offices having been opened 6 months before the pandemic in September of 2019.
Another new area in which Zela Aviation is actively involved is in the expansion and evolution of airports in the Greek province and on the islands that are looking to increase their traffic either in terms of routes or charter flights or offer aircraft parking services. We are already in contact with a number of regional airports and there are ongoing projects in place set to be unveiled soon.
For all of these reasons, as well as the fact that today, after having lived in London for 38 consecutive years, I decided to move along with my family to Greece, I will offer as much as I can to help this beautiful country in the tourism and aviation sectors where I believe its can grow massively.
As I am referring to Greece, I’d like to add that Zela Aviation has gone forward with a new venture, which is Zela Jet, a new airline company that offers private flights for leisure and business trips in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
- GTP: Please elaborate on this new venture. When was Zela Jet created?
Andreas Christodoulides: Zela Jet was newly created in 2021 in an opportunity to diversify from the commercial side of aviation and enter into the private jet world of aviation. My reasoning behind this was that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the commercial aviation market was going down whereas the private jet industry stayed strong and grew as people were feeling safer to travel private and without so many restrictions.
Zela Jet’s goal since then has been to gain presence in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East markets and of course in conjunction, supporting Greece where Zela Jet is able to help serve hotels, tour operators and travel agencies for private jet and helicopters services especially.
I mention helicopters, as well as the private jets, as they are in fact more in demand for within Greece. With so many beautiful isolated islands in Greece, where no airports are available, it gives the opportunity for helicopters to operate as they can simply land on a helipad rather and do not require an airport runway. Expanding our helicopter business in Greece is going to be one of our focuses for Summer 2023 as well as growing our private jets services, not only in Greece, but also in Europe and the Middle East region.
- GTP: You mentioned the Covid pandemic. How do you see the future of aviation and its recovery from the pandemic’s impact?
Andreas Christodoulides: It’s not a secret that Covid-19 has affected the aviation industry drastically. Of course, not only aviation was affected but the whole travel & tourism industry worldwide. It was a terrible time and a time not to be remembered for the world. Separation of human contact, unfortunate deaths, business closures and many more terrible things happened during the peak of the pandemic. A virus had stopped all these industries from ticking and working and just in a couple of weeks’ time.
We look at the world now and in terms of Covid we are in a much better position. Tourism and travel made a good start towards recovery in 2022. The aviation industry had woken up in April / May of this year and we as Zela Aviation were as busy as we could remember for a long time. Athens International Airport (AIA) this year had a massive improvement of traffic since 2021. I recently walked through Athens Airport and it certainly did not feel as if we were in a pandemic. The airport was so busy that it felt like 2019 again!
As for 2023, I am pleased to say that the year is looking good for aviation and especially for Greece and Cyprus. Forecasts are pointing to Greece as being a leader in2023. The post-pandemic period has come with high demands for aircraft and charter availabilities for 2023 from tour operators worldwide. The aviation industry will be able to have a better planning and a clearer certainty of how they can operate for 2023. This was something lost for the last few years and is going to greatly benefit not only us, as Zela Aviation, but also our clients and suppliers who we work closely with.
- GTP: Can you tell us more on how you got into aviation and why?
Andreas Christodoulides: This is a very simple answer for me as my passion and the love of my life is airplanes and for the last 50 years I am proudly serving my beloved aviation field, turning what was my hobby into my profession. Strangely, there no links to aviation in my family so this came to me out of nothing and I am thankful for it. I was never into sports or any other type of business apart from aviation. this industry was always “the one” for me. After a sequel of creating successful companies, I believe that Zela Aviation will be the legacy I will leave to my children Yiannis and Zenon so as to continue what I have so passionately started.