Hello and welcome to the 4th report in this series.
After three amazing days on the gorgeous island of Santorini, we were heading back to Athens for a few days prior to flying home to the U.S. There is a tourist bonus with photos of Santorini at the end of this report.
As mentioned in the previous report, there are 3 carriers flying between Athens and Santorini during the winter season: Low-cost carriers Ryanair and Vueling, and Greek flag-carrier Aegean/Olympic. We had decided on Aegean as they operated the most frequencies (3X daily) and therefore more convenient choices. And despite slightly higher prices than the LCC competition, being in Greece, we wanted to fly the local carrier.
Although we were not able to select seats at time of booking–I'm not sure if this is the case for all Aegean/Olympic domestic flights, or if it is due to the "Go Light" fare–online check-in opens at 48 hours prior to departure. Having found the seat pitch to be a bit cramped on the inbound flight, I selected exit row seats during online check-in. With the late departure time, I figured it would be night for most of the flight, so I wasn't too worried about the wing blocking the view out the window.
Again I rolled the dice with the empty middle-seat lottery and selected a window and aisle in 12A and 12C. Remembering how full the flight was on the ATH-JTR flight, I didn't expect the gamble would work, especially considering that when only middle seats are available on full flights, bulkhead and exit row middles are the first to be selected. It's a short flight, so it's really no big deal, still it doesn't hurt to try.
The morning of departure, we visited the mountaintop ruins of Ancient Thera, where there was a great view of the airport.
A Vueling B717-200 was taking off
We arrived at the airport about 1.5 hours prior to departure to return the rental car. Santorini airport is tiny–I mean really really small. There is only one lane at the security checkpoint and all 5 boarding "gates" are doors to the tarmac lining one small shared boarding lounge. It's hard to believe that JTR handled over 1.9 Million passengers in 2017. Luckily, there are plans to expand the terminal as passenger numbers have doubled in just the past 5 years.
With one small cafe outside security and a claustrophobic boarding area, there isn't much to do at JTR. Then, I discovered the outdoor terrace above the boarding gate. Woo hoo!
Those windows could use a good cleaning.
It was a beautiful day, so sitting outside watching the traffic was a perfect way to spend the time waiting for boarding.
JTR tower from the terrace
Of course, for an #AvGeek, an outdoor airport terrace is great for planespotting!
A Ryanair B737-800 landing from Athens
A puff of smoke as the tires touch the runway
Approaching the parking stand
With so little room on the apron, it's hard to imagine 5 or 6 aircraft on the ground at the same time during the busy summer season.
The departures screen on the terrace level shows our Aegean/Olympic flight is next.
And there is it, our Aegean A320 landing from Athens.
Taxiing to the parking stand with the small neighbouring island of Anafi in the background.
Arriving at the parking stand
Passengers deplaning from forward and aft doors.
Shortly before boarding is due to begin, we say goodbye to the terrace and head downstairs.
As you can see, the small boarding area is very crowded…and this is just one flight's worth of passengers, as the Ryanair boarding was complete. I can't imagine what a cluster it must be with 3 or more flights departing around the same time, as is common in the summer season.
Our flight OA359 will be boarding from doors 5 and 6.
With so little room in the gate area, boarding was messy with a mass of people shoving their way to doors 5 and 6.
It's odd to board a bus for such a short distance–the aircraft is parked just a few hundred feet from the terminal. Upon arriving at the aircraft, we boarded through the forward door this time.
Passing through what is normally the small Business class cabin on international flights. For this short domestic flight, the middle seats are not blocked and the first 3 rows before the curtain are considered Economy class like the rest of the cabin.
Boarding the aircraft was a bit more organized this time than the flight from Athens. I didn't notice as many people having to cross in the aisles due to boarding from the wrong door.
View of the aft cabin from my over-wing exit row seat.
The forward cabin.
View of the small airport terminal as the sun sets.
Legroom is much better in the exit row, of course.
The seat-back pocket is located on the upper part of the seats, allowing for more knee clearance and making the legroom even better in the exit row.
The flight ends up nearly 100% full again and, of course, the middle-seat lottery didn't work again. No big deal, and the middle seat passenger is always happy to switch for a more comfortable aisle seat.
The safety video plays as boarding ends and we pull away from the parking stand.
Taxi time is short at such a small airport, and we're off to Athens in the warm glow of the setting sun.
Beautiful views of Santorini at sunset as we bank left heading NW towards ATH.
Seeing the whole Island group in all its circular glory, it isn't difficult to imagine why some historians believe that Santorini/Thera may have been the original inspiration for the Atlantis myth.
The moving map plays on the overhead screens throughout the short flight.
A few minutes after takeoff, the cabin crew hand out chocolate cookies in the cabin. Pretty decent for a short 30 minute flight, where there would normally be no service at all on a comparable flight in the U.S. As a full drink service would not be possible with the short flight time, the crew offer water.
The sunset light show over the Cyclades islands continues as we head northwest.
Puffy little clouds hovering near Milos.
Almost as soon as we get to a cruising altitude, we begin to descend again.
The cabin prepares for arrival.
Surprised there is still some light out as we approach the Athens airport. We fly past Sounion at the tip of the Attica peninsula.
ATH in view.
We arrive at the gate about 10 minutes early. This time we pull up to a gate with a jetbridge, unlike the flight from ATH to JTR, which departed from a remote stand.
It's just a short walk to the arrivals area.
As we didn't have any checked bags, we are at the car rental counter before the flight was even supposed to arrive at the gate.
Thanks for reading!
Santorini tourism bonus below:
Bonus : Click here displayhide
Oía, the Greek Island village par excellence
Santorini from the highest point on the island.
Drinks with a breathtaking view of the Caldera at Santo Wines
Beautiful island sunset from Santo Wines
Ruins of Akrotiri - a Minoan settlement buried by the volcanic cataclysm around 1500 BCE and nearby Red Beach
Another gorgeous Santorini sunset
The mountaintop archaeological site of Ancient Thera
Santorini Island - JTR
Athens - ATH
Another pleasant and scenic short flight with Aegean. This return flight to Athens was much more comfortable being that we were able to score exit row seats during online check-in. Cabin crew were generally friendly and efficient--they had to work fast with less than 30 mins of flight time.
Santorini airport is small and pretty run down, but I loved the outdoor terrace! Athens airport is clean, modern, and efficient.
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