Sunday, March 25, 2018

TRIP REPORT: Aegean, Larnaca - Belgrade via Athens

TRIP REPORT


Submitted by Nemjee

Kalimera! After a wonderful five day break in Cyprus, it was time to head back to the Balkans. Given that Air Serbia insists on its horrendous flight times, all of us are forced to either fly on Wizz Air or via one of the other hubs as is the case with today's trip report.

Larnaca Airport is located some 42 km from Nicosia which, door to door, takes about 30 minutes.


This is Kapnos bus shuttle which has hourly departures to the airport. One way ticket costs €8.


Hermes runs both Larnaca and Paphos airports and in 2017 the two welcomed over 10 million passengers for the first time. This year they are set to break another record.

Can you spot the regional leader?


Once you pass the passport control you arrive to a relatively large area with coffee shops, restaurants and duty free shops.

Aegean Airlines

A3 913
LCA-ATH
Aircraft: Airbus A320
LF: 100% in economy, 50% in business class.

STD: 08.00 (actual: 08.03)
STA: 09.45 (actual: 09.31)
Flight time: 1 hour and 28 minutes


Our ride for today. Aegean's A320, SX-DVW. The plane was 9 years old and it was delivered to Aegean back in February 2009. The plane was named Nikos Kazantzakis which is also the name of Heraklion Airport.


LCA is great for spotting.



Gate area


Here in one picture you can see all the airlines that are fighting for the Cypriot market. First is Aegean which has been present for the longest period. Passing right behind it is Cobalt with its hybrid A320 that was flying either to Manchester or Athens, can't remember now. Behind you have TUS, Cyprus Airways and Blueair. I was impressed by TUS whose fleet has grown to about 5 or 6 aircraft (mix of F70 and F100).


On our way to the runway we passed next to Rossiya that was heading back to LED, TUS F70 that was being prepared to leave for Athens and EL AL behind it.


Shortly after take off service started. Unfortunately due to severe turbulence we had our seat-belts on until we reached Rhodes. The service was stopped twice as the crew had to go back to the galley. That said, there were a lot of passengers who got scared so the crew actually went through the cabin and spoke to them reassuring them that there was no reason to worry.


Aegean has some of the best looking cabin crew. Interestingly enough, all of their flight attendants are women.


Lunch box


We got a warm spinach pie and an energy bar. The pie was delicious as it was both fresh and hot.


Overflying the Greek island of Naxos


...and Mykonos


Athens Airport. Due to strong winds we were landing from the northern side.

After a two and a half hour connection we boarded our A320 to Belgrade. I was surprised to see that the flight was full. Economy class passengers were even seated in the business class section. There was a good mix of O&D and transfer passengers. We were around ten who were connecting from Larnaca. Aegean is reasonably priced to Cyprus as the cheapest fare without luggage comes out to be €204. That said, LCA is Aegean's top selling destination so cheap fares are impossible to find during the busy summer months.

Return flight to Athens had around 150 passengers. I wouldn't be surprised if ATH is one of the top destinations out of BEG. For example, Air Serbia's flights on Wednesday and Thursday were both sold out.


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107 comments:

  1. Kalimera! Wow! That's a great and neat report indeed, thanks for sharing Nemjee.
    I once flew A3 from BCN to SOF via ATH and the service, price and aircraft were all impeccable. Punctual service, extremely nice crew members and spotless planes.
    A3 for me, is one of the best airlines in Europe especially when it comes to quality vs. price.
    Greetings from Sofia :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's also nice to see that they manage to survive in Sofia despite competition from Ryanair and Wizz Air.

      I am agree with you, I also find them excellent!

      Delete
    2. SOF-ATH is becoming a bloodbath route served by 4 airlines. A3, FB and especially FR drastically reduced their rates and W6 has to lower their frequencies from 7 to 5. You can find rates as little as 15€ one way in mid May!
      But similar to BEG, the SOF-ATH sector is leisure, business, transfer and of course O&D.
      On the other hand BEG-ATH looks popular too, 15 weekly operated by JU and 3 by A3 makes a total of 18! Great stuff!

      Delete
    3. How many flights FB have? Strange how they still fly the flight to Athens.

      Delete
    4. I think FB codeshares with A3 so it gets pax from them.
      But I really doubt its chances to survive with both W6 and FR constantly increasing capacity in SOF and dumping fares.

      Delete
    5. FB have 2 miserable flights per week, but yes they are currently code sharing with A3 - i.e. Total flights> 7 A3 + 2 FB. They used to fly 4 times per week but FR just killed them.

      Delete
    6. FR is daily? Is their schedule good?

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    7. A3 also flies double daily some days of the week. Usually using an Olympic Q400 for the flight.

      Delete
    8. Yes, FR have daily early morning flights and W6 have daily afternoon ones but will be reduced in mid May to mid June and from mid September to October end. So 14+9=23 flights per week. But A3 depolyed A320 and as you can see the capacity has increased a lot. So FR 189 seats, W6 180 + A3 approx. 150 and FB 100 with their Embraer. I think its very difficult to maintain this. SOF is not OTP and a much smaller market.

      Delete
    9. That's crazy! I think the first to lose will be FB. After that it will be down to a fight between FR and W6.

      Aegean has its connections so it will be fine.

      So has Wizz reduced any other routes from SOF?

      Delete
    10. Keep in mind that Greece has a lot of Bulgarian immigrants and also there are a lot of business ties between the two. It is a large market but they also get competition from buses. I think Sofia to Greek borders is two hours drive or something. Plus the highways in Greece are good so if plane ticket is too expensive gastarbeiters can take the bus.

      Delete
    11. Yes, they initially announced BCN as daily but will be 5 per week and daily during summer peak. EIN was also daily but will be served 5 times per week. They will increase MAD from 4 to 5 in summer peak. TLV remains daily.
      Similar to BEG, they did some route reshuffling. They decreased some routes but increased other ones with more demand. But FR is just not letting go.

      Delete
    12. I am surprised that FB is still around with all this competition on every international route they fly.

      Delete
    13. Against all odds, FB did survive. They were most hurt with MAD, BRU, BCN, MXP and ALC was literally stolen by W6. Now the new fight with W6 will be Lisbon and Malága this year. The new route to Odessa seems to be working for the time being. We will see.

      Delete
    14. Aren't they backed by some bank or something?

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    15. They were bought by the previous Hemus Air, who also bought a smaller airline called Viaggio Air that operated ATR-42 and formed Bulgaria Air. The same group manages a bank too. But, they have problems for not paying the airport fees as they owe money to SOF. FR has sued them after they started operating to SOF in April 2016. Looong story :)

      Delete
    16. The special subvention exists only for JU. It is tailor made that only JU can get it and it is paid for by the increased fees all other airlines pay.
      If an airline ever comes close to be able to claim that subsidy it will just change the conditions for it so that again only Ju will be able to get it. Or they will just cancel it.
      No other airline will ever get it.

      Delete
  2. Great report Nemjee, nice photos too.
    I never would have thought that Cyprus with its small population (I thin shame as Montenegro) had 10 million passengers through its 2 airports, that is crazy!
    Also, what as the service like on the ATH-BEG sector?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cyprus is slightly larger, around 900.000 people.
      What's even more impressive is that Cyprus had 3.6 million tourists last year but the airports handled 10 million. It shows how strong O&D demand is.

      Service to Belgrade started with a large sandwich prepared by Olympic Air catering. I am fasting so I didn't take it but it seems it was standard with ham, cheese and butter. Once drinks were served they passed with coffee/tea and offered a Kit Kat bar.

      Pretty decent for a 01.20 flight.

      Delete
    2. That means around 2.8 arrivals/departures for 900K population. That is good but in the end Cyprus is a developed country!

      Delete
    3. Yes that's true but don't forget that five years ago the island's economy was completely destroyed. Luckily they have a good system of governance (legacy of the British Empire) so they were able to quickly bounce back.

      Cobalt seems to be growing quite nicely and they actually started offering connecting flights. It should further boost the airport's numbers.

      Delete
    4. Looks like the Cypriots fly a lot by these statistics.

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    5. How many Cypriots visit Serbia and Belgrade annually?

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    6. I do not know to tell you honestly. I don't think it's that many as the market is mostly made up of Serbs from Cyprus and businessmen. That said, more and more Serbs are going to Cyprus for holidays. Wizz Air will carry most of them this summer.

      Delete
  3. Athens - Belgrade is very popular route, some days during the summer season we have 3 daily flights (2 JU + 1 A3) despite that we have 2 daily to Thessaloniki and many guarantees to Greek islands.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Charters* to Greek islands

      Delete
    2. I think BEG-ATH is also leisure, business and transfer. A3 have a very good, domestic coverage and excellent connections to most Greek Islands, Cyprus, Kuwait, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, etc.

      Delete
    3. We get lots of transfer passengers from Greece during summer months. That is why tickets for O&D are insanely priced.

      Delete
    4. Clearly more flights are needed. Also from Nemjee's report at this time of year more flights could be supported on the LCA sector. JU badly needs a regional aircraft. It could greatly increase frequencies to such destinations and the Middle East and offer connections to its European network.

      Delete
    5. A friend of mine flew on JU 506 this Friday and the flight was packed. The main problem is that local passengers (higher yield) avoid JU like the plague due to its schedule. In the end they end up carrying transfers.
      That's why Wizz Air managed to get their fares to such high levels. Good luck finding a normally priced fare on W6 this summer.

      The main issue with Wizz Air is that they charge a premium while offering a pretty miserable experience.

      Delete
    6. I really hope Wizz starts Athens and Thessaloniki - there is definitely demand.

      Delete
    7. It's a shame their flights to the Greek islands didn't work out. Maybe they should have offered Chania in stead of Corfu.

      That said, Ellinair seems to be expanding so maybe they end up launching scheduled flights to BEG from either ATH or SKG.

      Delete
    8. That would be great. Or maybe Ryanair, they have bases in both ATH and SKG.

      Delete
    9. I think FR is avoiding BEG on purpose. Could INI happen?

      Delete
    10. This summer we will have to ATH:

      JU: 15
      A3: 3

      Who knows maybe next summer ATH gets three daily on average. Could work.

      Delete
    11. With Vinci running airport in near future we might see Ryan coming with number of routes and those flights to Greece are really needed.

      Delete
    12. Only if Ryan is ready to pay what others pay.

      Delete
    13. I hope Wizz Air wakes up from its German/Swedish dream and offer Serbians flights to Greece!

      Delete
    14. Wizz is in deep REM cycle. Only a total shock will wake them up. #ryanair

      Delete
    15. As far as I can see demand from Serbia for Greece is clearly very high. We focus on ATH but keep forgetting that JU serves SKG 14 times a week too. 29 flights per week served by JU is a lot!

      Delete
    16. We can also add two weekly on Ellinair to HER. They are freely selling tickets as well.

      Delete
    17. HER and CHA is surely a market that Aviolet could focus on.

      Delete
    18. True! So 29 JU, 3 A3, 2 EL makes a total of 34 weekly flights! OMG!

      Delete
    19. Almost as many as ZRH. :D

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    20. My thoughts are that MLA will be next. Cyprus and Malta have developed a lot during the last 10 years and demand is never-ending.

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    21. What do you mean MLA will be next? To get more flights?

      Delete
    22. Yes. Wizz Air increased flights this year and JU will fly 3 times. This makes a total of 6. During the last years MLA was flown only 3 or 4 times per week by both.

      Delete
    23. Ryan could make a boom (1-2 mil passengers in a 2 year time) as in many places they come. Vinci could easily give them comparable conditions to JU and Wizz ( handling costs close to 0) plus consider slashing airport taxes to 5-10 eur pp. I am not sure whether they would actually do that as airport capacities are limited without new terminal building. That would bring a number of new flights to Greece but would certainly hurt JU.

      Delete
    24. Anon 12:09 maybe FR is just interested to pay the same as JU pays.

      Delete
    25. Yes they can just like they did with INI - 5 new routes.
      But again, if they ever base 1 or 2 aircraft in BEG, they should be careful not to overlap the destinations but I am a bit concerned about BEG. I don't think the LCC carriers are interested. BEG is now more focused on long-haul routes. The gasterbeiter destinations are basically covered. Aviolet will cover the charters this year, JFK will be increased. The only LCC we will see is U2 launching flights to TXL and BSL.

      Delete
    26. JU gets special privilege because it handles the most passengers. W6 is not far from it.

      Delete
    27. @Anonymous 1:47 PM
      The special subvention exists only for JU. It is tailor made that only JU can get it and it is paid for by the increased fees all other airlines pay.
      If an airline ever comes close to be able to claim that subsidy it will just change the conditions for it so that again only Ju will be able to get it. Or they will just cancel it.
      No other airline will ever get it.

      Delete
    28. So, do you think this is fair? Protectionism?

      Delete
    29. For me it is clear state sponsoring to the national airline.

      Delete
    30. JU receives state aid in various forms. It is all in their financial statements. I think that Wizz actually also qualifies for airport discounts. If I am not wrong they handle more than 500K a year to/from Belgrade?

      Delete
    31. Why don't W6 sue them? Or Serbian law or legislature doesn't allow this?

      Delete
    32. Anonymous March 25, 2018 at 5:08 PM
      The threshold was changed to 1 million passengers. Still only JU qualifies.

      Delete
    33. @anon 6:43
      Tnx for this update on increase. They could be up for it if they add 2 more planes but I doubt they will do it.

      Delete
    34. Why did W6 stop BEG-CFU?

      Delete
    35. They were fighting with BEG over conditions and pulled one plane out of the Belgrade base as I remember.

      Delete
    36. On my opinion, they should reduce flights to the north and focus on South. Most Serbs that emigrated did it, so they are served with their destinations.
      Time for local Serbs to enjoy sunny destinations and especially Greece, Cyprus and Malta. I think the flights to CFU can be reinistated easily.

      Delete
    37. What are you talking about? Young generations of Serbs still emigrate in large numbers every year.

      Delete
    38. Emigration from the country unfortunately exploded last couple of years but in all directions. Dubai is now pretty much a diaspora destination!

      Delete
  4. seat pitch in A3's A320 is terrible. its not better then Wizz

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First seven rows have bigger seat pitch. Also A3 has 174 seats but Wizz 180.

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    2. Yes, but due to the bigger pitch in those first rows, the other seats are as cramped as those on Wizz Air A320.

      Delete
  5. did that one way flight cost 204€ ?? 0_o

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, €204 is the cheapest return fare.
      My ticket cost €138 one way. There was a cheaper flight for €102 but it departed LCA at 05.45.

      Delete
    2. thx for the answer

      Delete
  6. Thank s for the report Nemjee. Really nice. Do you work in travel industry?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. No, I do not work in the travel industry. I went to Cyprus for a break. :)

      Delete
    2. I see you come up with loads number quite often so I thought you have access to this data through reservation system.
      I always wanted to visit Cyprus but never made a proper plan to go. Heard lots of nice stories. Do you visit often?
      Tnx once more for a nice review :)

      Delete
    3. I fly about five or six times per year between BEG and LCA. Until recently I always tried to take JU but since they moved to the new model I avoid them. Not to mention that they are the only airline in BEG to strictly enforce their hand luggage policy and actually make your life Hell. Even Wizz Air gave up on it. Truth be told, Wizz is really not strict with it.

      As for Cyprus, it's a wonderful place. You should definitely visit it. :)

      Delete
    4. You are right about the JU schedule to LCA. It is horrible. They are definitely aiming for transfer passengers and forgot the large portion of the market which is Serbian people doing business/having family and friends there, or just going for a beach holiday :)
      I had only one flight with JU since they introduced new fare system, it was AMS - BGD and they did not check luggage. I suppose they do it in Belgrade only. That really reminds me of Ryan/Easy a decade ago. :)

      Delete
    5. I think these controls are only strictly enforced here in Belgrade. Personally I think they shouldn't be as strict. At this point they can't afford to lose more 'guests.'

      Delete
    6. Agree absolutely. Hopefully they get their act together and create a "product" similar to LH. On my Amsterdam - Belgrade flight catering was an absolute mess. Complete confusion about old/new tariffs, endless list for sandwich hand outs, one person from group has red and other blue tariff, no credit cards, crew desperate to find change in euros, no possibility to get change in dinars if I paid in eur...crew was very professional but was obviously embarrassed with what they are reduced to.

      Delete
    7. That's a shame indeed. Let's hope they settle these issues as time goes by.

      Delete
  7. I have to say that their fas look really beautiful!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for the report Nemjee!
    Is it possible for an ASL business class ticket holder to use Aegean's lounges in ATH since the two airlines codeshare on the BEG_ATH route?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think so. JU is handled by Skyserv and they have their lounge at the airport.

      Delete
  9. Does any of the new Cypriot airlines or even Blue Air plan to start flights to any ex-Yu destinations? Even if it is seasonal?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Highly doubt it. Belgrade seems to be the only place that can sustain a non-stop flight.
      Air Serbia, Aegean and Austrian Airlines have the region covered.

      Delete
  10. Very nice report. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Is Nemjee Аполон on scc forum?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, this is the only place where I post. :)

      Delete
    2. Thanks for that.

      Delete
  12. I personally wonder what makes all BEG-bound flights full during the low season.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tourist boom we are experiencing in the city + newly created sizable diaspora in last couple of years that still keeps close ties and uses LCC + some AS transfers.

      Delete
    2. AS transfers to where ?

      Delete
    3. AS still has quite a few transfer passengers in spite all cuts to the network.

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    4. Of course it does. There is NO other airline better connecting the Balkans. Maybe only OS but still, JU is better.

      Delete
  13. Some of the trip reports including Ryan and this one read like advertising for airlines. Everything is described as perfect and there is no negative experience or feedback. In my million+ km of passenger flying everything from short hop props to long haul business class there were only a handful of 100% perfect experiences.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well you can write a negative one.

      Delete
    2. If the trip is not being paid by the airline it is reasonable to expect pros and cons in the report.

      Delete
    3. Lol you seriously think Nemjee and everyone else was paid to write a report haha especially on airlines like Ryanair? Please. Why don't you sit down and write a negative review? I'm sure it will be published.

      Delete
    4. He flew on Aegean after Wizz, of course it was perfect. :D

      Delete
    5. I have seen both pros and cons in this overall positive review.

      Delete
  14. We can lend you some glasses if you wish:

    "Unfortunately due to severe turbulence we had our seat-belts on until we reached Rhodes. The service was stopped twice as the crew had to go back to the galley. That said, there were a lot of passengers who got scared so the crew actually went through the cabin and spoke to them reassuring them that there was no reason to worry."....

    Not eveything is perfect as you were exaggerating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Were you on the flight?

      Delete
    2. Read the article above, those were Nemjee's words.

      Delete
    3. Since when is turbulence under airline control so it deserves negative rating? Termporary turbulence does not make first class Singapore or Emirates suite product any less superb. If anything, that desription is also positive for A3 as shows FAs as being caring during what was most likely just a moderate chop.

      Delete
    4. Actually, if you go through the portal you will find my Wizz Air trip report. I urge you to take a look at it as you will see that I also skipped on saying many negative things regarding that airline.

      Now that I think of the whole Aegean experience there wasn't anything negative that stood out. They were on time, planes were clean, crew was friendly ... so was I supposed to make things up just to add a negative aspect to the report?

      The reason why I added the part about the crew talking to the passengers is because it took place a few rows in front of me but also because it was highly unusual. If you think that part was made up then there isn't much I can do about it.

      Still, thanks for commenting. Any and all feedback is more than welcome.

      Delete
    5. Big bravo to the crew for going around the cabin and calming down dkared and probably inexperienced passengers.
      For me this is far more important duty than quality of service, drinkd etc.

      Delete
  15. Nice report Nemjee.Was Aegean's fare cheaper than Wizz's,so you picked A3? Aegean has developed a nice hub in ATH but is becoming,as other airlines,more low-cost like..the A320s have 174pax,baggage is charged, Ellinair doesnt charge, and as of recently you have to pay for front row and exit seats..only seats after Exit and back of the plane remain free of charge..People here in Greece are angry and turning to Ryanair and other LCCs because the only difference apart from connections is that A3 offers free meals..but for how long that too now that other european airlines charge for it...?..The Greece-LCA market is huge and a bloodbath with A3,Cobalt,TUS,BlueAir,Cyprus Airways flying from ATH and the other four except Cyprus from SKG..plus Fr to Paphos..We'll see who will..survive.A3 is on the top with 6daily from ATH (lots of greeks moving to Cyprus for work and lots of greek channel crews and actors moving production there so a lot of to and fro ATH-LCA weekly)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think A3 is facing so much competition back home that they are forced to do it. With the arrival of W6, it's already a headache for them. Not to mention the filthy cheap fares offered by FR.
      Plus, ATH is getting more and more competitive everyday. You have Scoot, you have easyJet, Ellinair, Primera Air, Volotea...it's just getting crazy competitive. Not to mention the MEB3 such as QR for example.

      Delete
    2. Thank you. I usually fly there on Wizz Air and come back on Aegean. W6 has the convenient flight on the weekend. That said, due to a change in their schedule they did not have a flight to LCA this Sunday. Flights resume this Tuesday with a revised time of departure.

      Actually, Ryanair suspended PFO-ATH but Cobalt stepped in to replace them.

      The market is large enough. Mind you, there are close to a million passengers every year flying between LCA and ATH. That's quite a lot and I think airlines that are flying now will make it. I am skeptical about TUS as I don't know how deep their pockets are and how long they'll be able to survive.

      As for Athens and Aegean, as the Anon above stated, they were forced to adapt to new market realities but without actually destroying their product like JU did. They kept some sort of service. For example, their onboard product has remained stable for the past few years which is good. I think they found what works for them.

      Vassilakis himself said that TK is one of their main competitors and that they are looking to grow by as much as possible before the new airport opens. They are not only going to match their regional network but the quality of their service. That is why Aegean doesn't charge transfer passengers from the Middle East for their luggage. They understood that there are limits to the LCC model when you are trying to build a hub.

      Eventually I think Aegean will be fine as they understood the importance of marketing. Since day one they had really great ads and marketing campaigns which have consolidated their brand in key markets. After all, look at how many Greek airlines they've buried over the years.

      Delete

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