Athens International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos" began its operation on 29 March 2001 and is the primary civilian airport that serves the city of Athens and the region of Attica.
The airport is the major hub and base of Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air. As of late 2011, the airport is the thirtieth busiest airport in Europe. The airport serves just under 13 million passengers annually and its name honors the Greek statesman Eleftherios Venizelos. Eleftherios Venizelos was the prominent Cretan political figure and Prime Minister of Greece, who made an outstanding contribution to the development of Greek aviation and the Hellenic Air Force in the 1930s.
The airport is about 20 km (12 min) to the east of central Athens (30 km (19 min) by road, due to intervening hills).
The airport has received approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration for take-offs and landings of the biggest passenger jet worldwide, the Airbus A380. The first Airbus A380 to visit 'Eleftherios Venizelos' Athens International Airport made an emergency landing on 13 April 2011 as a passenger suffered a heart attack. The first scheduled A380 flight took place on October 26 from Emirates Airlines.