A Greek Australian teacher has spearheaded a campaign to see Patra airport retain international flights.
Catherine Zgouras couldn’t sit idly by when she saw the potential of Patra’s airport and the inaction of people in power.
When a low budget airline inexplicably stopped their scarce flights from London to Patra, the third largest Greek city, with no reason given, the local government didn’t care, or rather, it did not care after it actually realised the flights had been cancelled.
A regular on those flights was Sydney teacher and local Patrini, Catherine Zgouras. She saw the demand first hand, constantly travelling on overbooked flights and meeting her fellow passengers who would tell her of the need to keep the travel route open.
“I needed the flights because I write and edit for UK publishers, parents needed them to see their children studying in the UK, business people needed them to get to work and ex-pats to visit their family,” she tells Neos Kosmos.
“These flights were a blessing.”
When she saw the flight route disappear and not a peep came out of her local representatives, she decided to launch a campaign.
It started with humble beginnings, circulating a petition with the aim of raising awareness and giving politicians a real sense of how urgent the issue was and how beneficial it would be for the town.
“I received lots of help from friends, local businesses and other authority figures but we still didn’t get direct flights,” she says.
After the campaign gained more traction when it was featured in the local newspapers, Catherine was approached by politicians in the hope of using her campaign to further their election hopes.
Not the response she was hoping for.
“[When] the then mayor offered false promises, local authority figures asked me to run with them in the upcoming elections as my campaign was making the news,” she says.
“I obviously refused, because I’ve learnt that politics here in Greece are about feeding a hungry ego rather than repairing a country’s wounds.”
In a positive step, Aegean Airlines brokered a deal with UK holiday company Thompson to reopen the route, but only London to Patras return, not the other way around.
“When I asked Thomson about it, they said that the Greek side didn’t ask for outbound flights. I was furious!” Catherine says.
The fight still continues, and with appointments set up once again with local members, Catherine isn’t one to back down easily.
She hopes to convince the municipality to see the benefit of introducing more direct flights to Patra.
“It’s important to get the airport open again because it will help Patra get back on the map,” she says.
“The Greek people in Patra have shown me great support and so I will continue because we need these flights to introduce growth in a troubled and ailing city.”
For her work on the issue, Catherine was named a Patrian Person of the Year by Peloponnisos newspaper.
source: Neos Kosmos