I could see ORD-ATH being viable on a 763 on UA seasonally, but not because of VFR (visiting friends and relatives). Although Chicago has a large Greek population, I don't think it is large enough or recent enough to support a flight on it's own. My grandfather came from Greece in 1900 and most Greeks I know are at least 1st or 2nd generation. The population has become fairly scattered and integrated into America.
But I do think that with Greece's rebounding tourism, more Americans are travelling there and ORD has the ability to capture some of that traffic. Plus ORD-ATH is *Alliance hub to *Alliance hub and Aegean's growth has been astounding. I think ATH has the ability to become a *Alliance alternative to IST as a gateway to not only Turkey but the entire Middle East. I hope UA and A3 get tighter...
Actually, there is a VFR "niche" market for Greece. About 40% of the Greek diaspora in Chicago are MAINLANDERS....which is in contrast to the rest of the USA, which have higher percentages of Islanders and Athenians. Yes, people have scattered a bit, from decades, but not even close to the level of the "invisible" Los Angeleno Greeks. The Greek community is a bit more solid in Chicago, compared to most places. There are still a large number of Greek restaurants and Churches(in both cases, hubs for the community) in Chicagoland, which is definitely NOT L.A.....
(1)The only viable flight to the mainland is A3's MUC-KLX. Which is not daily, and has a fairly long layover.
(2) Sparta has been a military base for many years, and no intentions of returning to civil aviation.
(3) Austrian's schedule to Patras is crap. Flight leaves VIE for GPA at 5:30 AM........all the OS flights from the USA arrive at 8:40AM, missing it by three hours.
(4) OA's flights to IOA have a 12-hour-plus gap in ATH.....flights from the USA arrive too late to make the first one. So, there is a bit of a dilemma of either waiting until the next flight, or start on ground transportation.
For all practical purposes, people will have to take some kind of ground transportation, be it by car or train or bus. With that being said, people are willing to pay slightly more, to get a more convenient flight, due to the mainlanders. Chicago is not price-conscious like New York, either, who will take an indirect routing just to save $120.
Plus you have two carriers that have sizable hub operations at ORD. Whoever does get ORD-ATH will stand to gain revenue on other routes......give them the flight they want, and you get the loyalty on the other flying, and take away from their primary competitor. True, regardless if it's AA or UA.
Yes, it would be great if the UA and A3 hubs are connected, and definitely a solid alternative to IST(though a bit smaller). And ATH could be useful for TLV during the Jewish Holidays, since there is no direct service from ORD to TLV....which is happening right after the summer crowd has faded out.
But management at UA has been so ignorant, when it comes to the Greek market, over the years. Not really optimistic, even if ORD-ATH is a "no brainer".