Hello and welcome to the 3rd report in this series.
After a lovely few days on the Greek mainland (bonus at the end of this report), it was time to head out to the Greek Islands. With only one week to explore Greece, we didn't have enough time for island-hopping so we decided we would visit one island. Naturally, that island was Santorini–the crown jewel of the Greek islands–which had been on the bucket list for years.
Despite the shoulder season, there were still 3 options of airlines flying nonstop between Athens and Santorini: Olympic Air/Aegean, Ryanair, and Vueling. Although the Irish and Spanish low-cost carriers offered slightly lower round-trip fares, being in Greece, I decided to try the local carrier.
Flights were booked directly on OlympicAir.com. Flights can be booked on either the Aegean or Olympic websites as the two Greek airlines are essentially once since they merged in 2013. Domestic flights within Greece are operated by a mix of Olympic and Aegean aircraft, but all are marketed as Olympic (OA flight numbers).
Aegean/Olympic offer two types of fare categories on these flights: GoLight fares, which do not include checked baggage, and Flex fares, which include 1 checked bag and free flight changes.
We went for GoLight fares as we would be staying in Santorini for only 3 days and only needed cabin baggage. As we would be returning to the same hotel in Athens for a few nights, we were able to store our larger bags at the hotel for the 3 days we'd be in Santorini.
Seat selection at time of booking was not possible; however, online check-in opens at 48 hours prior to departure, which is nice.
On the day of departure, we dropped off the rental car about 3 hours prior to departure. As we had checked in online and didn't have any bags to check, there was no need to go to the Aegean ticket counters.
I stopped by a kiosk to print out our boarding passes as the kiosks throughout the airport are set up for use on most airlines serving ATH.
Fingers crossed that the middle seat stays open!
Security was a breeze with no queue and automatic boarding pass scanners.
Schengen Concourse Lounges
Once we were airside in Hall B, the concourse dedicated to flights within the Schengen area, we headed to one of the concourse's two Priority Pass lounges.
We started out at the Goldair lounge, which was very crowded. Upon entering the lounge, the agent had us wait for a minute while she checked to see if there were any open seats in the lounge. There were just a few left, so she let us in. It's always a gamble with Priority Pass access as lounges can deny access for lack of space. According to the agent, the Aegean lounge was closed for renovations, so the lounge was handling a lot more passengers than normal.
The Goldair lounge is not particularly large, but has a lot of natural light. Unfortunately for #AvGeeks, there are no views of the tarmac as the lounge faces landside.
The rental car center, where we had just dropped off the car, is on the right.
The food offering was ok. Better than most lounges in the US, but nothing exceptional.
Some hot items consisting of pastries filled with meat.
We hadn't eaten yet, so I was getting pretty hungry and had a bit of everything.
After a short stay we decided to go check out the other lounge in the Schengen zone.
The Skyserv lounge was a bit less crowded than the Goldair lounge and was about the same size. Overall, it seemed less hectic than the Goldair lounge as there were walls separating the space.
The food offering was about the same as the Goldair lounge.
Boarding announcements were not made in the lounge, but there were several screens displaying flight information in both English and Greek.
Much like British airports, gates are only displayed about an hour prior to departure. My flight to Σαντορίνη is showing on-time 😀
About 15 minutes before boarding time, we starting making our way towards the gate, passing by the relatively large smoking lounge.
Lots of Aegean aircraft were parked remotely. Based on the fact that our boarding gate was on the lower level of the concourse, I was guessing we'd be boarding one of those aircraft by bus.
Some nice tarmac views from the gates on the lower level.
I'm probably in the minority, but I like the new Iberia livery. I like that it has bright colors despite all the white.
Whereas I find the Aegean livery a bit dull.
When boarding begins, Star Alliance Gold are called first. It always seems a bit pointless to have priority boarding when boarding is by bus, but I guess it allows the first who enter the bus to position themselves by the door for a quick exit.
After priority boarding, general boarding begins. Of course, it's a huge mess as these is no order to the boarding, such as by rows or zones, etc.
Once on the bus, I was able to get a decent spot by the door to make sure I would have enough space in the overheads for my rollaboard. I'm not used to having to think about that anymore since I usually only fly oneworld airlines, where I have priority boarding.
There are always nice views when boarding by bus, but the black spots don't make photography easy.
After a short ride, here we are at our A320
Stepping off the bus it's chaotic once again as people naturally gravitate towards the forward boarding door; however there are airstairs also connected to the rear door for those seated in the back. There was a sign indicating which rows should board from which door, but of course people don't read 😛
Knowing our seats were way in the back, we headed to the rear boarding stairs.
Tarmac boarding is fun when it's beautiful out like this.
Our seats are only a few rows from the rear door and luckily there was still enough space overhead for both of our bags.
The leather slimline seats look really thin.
Being so thin, the seats are a bit hard. Luckily, the flight is barely 30 minutes.
The seat pitch is tight. Being of pretty average height (5'10"/1.78 m), my knees almost touched the back of the seat in front when sitting straight up.
Egyptair A321 parked in the next spot over.
It looked like it was going to be an empty flight, but then another bus arrived. The load ended up being close to 100% full, so unfortunately the empty-middle-seat lottery didn't work this time.
The friendly cabin crew handed out candies in the cabin once all passengers were seated.
The Egyptair A321 pushed back right before us, which delayed us a few minutes as we were blocked in.
As we waited, the airshow played on the overhead screens, showing the route for today's flight.
Finally, we were ready for pushback from the stand.
The safety video played as we pushed back and began to taxi. The video played twice–first in Greek, then in English.
Olympic Dash-8 Q402
Taxi was short and we were off in the beautiful late afternoon light.
The empty parking stand we had left just a few minutes earlier.
Beautiful rugged coastline of the Attica peninsula.
Looking back towards the airport in the setting sun.
Shortly after takeoff, cabin crew passed out chocolate-filled mini croissants. With less than 30 minutes flying time, there wasn't enough time for a full drink service, but water was offered upon demand.
As expected, the short flight over the Greek islands was very scenic.
It was also nice to have the airshow to get an idea of our location.
Almost as soon as we'd reached cruising altitude, we began out descent.
Nice low pass over the Santorini group of Islands on landing.
White buildings perched on cliff-sides, typical of Santorini and the Cyclades Islands.
After doing a loop around Thirasia and the southern tip of Santorini, we landed from the south.
And here we are at tiny Santorini airport, as the last rays of sun disappear.
Time to explore this beautiful island! There will be a Santorini tourist bonus in the next report.
Thank you for reading!
Below are a few tourist bonus photos from our first few days on the Greek mainland.
Sounion, the southernmost tip of the Attica peninsula, and the temple of Poseidon
The temple of Poseidon
An Attica sunset
Delphi and the nearby mountain town of Αράχοβα (Arachova)
Delphi - Temple of Apollo
Theatre of Delphi
Sanctuary of Athena
Independent Goldair Handling Lounge
Athens - ATH
Santorini Island - JTR
A short scenic flight with Aegean. The cabin crew were very friendly and were constantly in the aisles on this short flight. Usually, on domestic U.S. flights, there is no service at all on a 30 minute flight, so kudos to Aegean for managing a snack service. The seats themselves weren't particularly comfortable and the legroom was poor. However, for a flight of this length, it was totally fine, and the combination of airshow + beautiful scenery were a nice distraction.
The Athens airport is pretty pleasant and efficient in the off season--though I imagine it can be a zoo in the summer. It was nice to have a choice of 2 Priority Pass lounges inside the Schengen concourse. There are 2 more Priority Pass lounges serving the non-Schengen gates.
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