TRIP REPORT: Aegean, Corfu - Beirut via Athens

TRIP REPORT



Submitted by: Aэrologic

The strait of Corfu



I travel a lot and after Georgia, Albania has been my greatest travel surprise so far. From Skoder in the North to Sarande in the South I've discovered breathtaking landscapes filled with welcoming people and full of ancient history and well preserved monuments. It is one of the most overlooked destinations in Europe in what it has to offer to tourists both inland and sea-side. To top it all, costs for average travelers are much lower than in Croatia and Montenegro where industrial tourism has taken ground.

After more than a month of a wonderful Indian summer with the advent of winter it was time to go South.

I had two choices in order to reach Beirut. First was with Air Serbia via Belgrade and second with Aegean from Corfu. Air Serbia is very popular in Albania, its signs are literally everywhere on doors of travel agencies sometimes along and sometimes even ahead of the likes of Turkish Airlines and Austrian. From what I've heard from a person working at TIA airport security flights are always full. Being already in Sarande and in order not to backtrack to Tirana for 6 hours on mostly mountain roads I choose the latter option.



Connecting times were not very convenient with a 10 hours stop in Athens. I took the ferry from Sarande to Corfu which amounted to approximately 20 Euros. It can be booked via the website. It takes about an hour and half.


After two days in Corfu where I visited amongst other the Serbian museum and met the honorary consul who’d be happy to introduce everyone to the history of the museum it was time to go to the airport.

The airport in Corfu is bland and uninspiring like most of the Greek airports and more often than not in stark contrast to the landscape that surrounds them. Fraport didn't do any notable investment besides re-naming the WiFi network after them which by the way wasn't working.

Check-in lines

Corfu airport terminal

Boarding gate

Crowds are everywhere, check-in was slow and disorganized despite a low number of travelers on domestic departures. Few persons were taking forever to check-in. Aegean enforces rather strictly the 8kg hand-luggage policy which is a bit too far in my opinion. I was handed the boarding pass all the way to Beirut. Our flight from Corfu was full.

Shady Israeli aircraft


SX-DGE

Once on the plane the boarding was done efficiently. The experience from Corfu was minimal partly due to the short flight of about an hour. The crew didn't have time to distribute candies to more than first 10 rows after what the aircraft started taxiing.

Safety demonstration

Number 13 missing…

The meal service

Unlike sandwiches few years ago even on domestic flights the in-flight meal consisted of cookies and a narrow choice of drinks such as coke, juice and tea.

Approach to ATH

The flight was uneventful and surprisingly the landing was very smooth due to absence of frequent winds in approach to Athens.

Aegean uses only remote stands in Athens

Athens has been along with Warsaw one of my most detested transfer airports in Europe. That has however changed and the changes have been noticeable albeit not categorical. The toilets have been renovated but they either run hot or cold water depending on your luck which is impossible to regulate. However, that must make them more maintenance friendly and cheaper for the contractors. To be fair, there are drinking water fountains all around the terminal which were there before. The cleaning company maintaining Athens airport terminal is curiously named iOS.

The domestic arrivals are surprisingly more pleasant than international ones. There is plenty of rooms to sit and is very quiet.

Emirates landing from Newark

Athens airport terminal


The second main improvement after has been acoustic. Yes, that's right. Athens now broadcasts round the clock a mix of well chosen music that combines a mix of Indie, 80’s, classical and lounge both inside and outside the terminals. ‘Sleeping inside the terminal is a criminal offence’ signs have been removed. Ashtrays are now plentiful right outside the terminal and there is no segregation of smokers. Good job ATH. I spent my time mostly working and eating in one of the few restaurants. The choice isn’t great but sufficient for a layover.


Around 10PM with time to spare I headed to the security only to find huge lines that would take an hour to cross. There were Aeroflot and Emirates departing at the same time and it seemed the airport was about to explode. The security lines were insufficient, agents were rude and passengers arguing between themselves. It was very chaotic and disorganized. The boarding started ahead of time and staff was checking passport data at the boarding gate what is an unique feature on Aegean.


Athens night apron

Athens at night showed the sight of the almost entire Aegean’s fleet consisting of A320’s and A321’s. Aegean uses almost exclusively remote stands for boarding. The boarding took time due to the plane being almost full. Passengers were mostly Lebanese connecting from other places in Northern and Western Europe. The plane was more modern with foldable displays, which unfortunately, except for the security demonstration, were not working. The same ‘distance to destination’ kept being displayed throughout the flight.

The service was this time more organized due to the length of flight. We took off North from runway 03L and then took a right turn. We were distributed candies once again and by the time the service reached my row we were already one hour into the flight.

The inscription on the box sounded like a joke


The catering was diminished by half versus two years ago. There is no salad or desert other than a waffle. Not even wet napkins. Only the drinks remained unchanged with the notable availability of wine and beer which are not proposed to guests unless they ask. The food was tasty albeit in minimal quantities. Having eaten before it was enough for a two hours flight.

Confusing route-map

Full format ads covering every second page

The once famous and trendy Blue magazine was a huge disappointment. It's basically an ads encyclopedia, literally. The destinations map is confusing and unappealing whilst minimal content is focused on the airline but maximum on selling whatever-there-may-be to an excessive and aggressive point. It is mostly composed of short texts on irrelevant subjects and huge ads. The Ryanar in-flight review seemed educational compared to that. Never seen anything like it. To put down costs even further the review goes out only once in two months meaning this was the edition for September-October. Finally, JU's Elevate has found a serious contender in its race to the bottom. Many destinations that used to run year-round such as Kiev have been turned seasonal.

Verdict

Aegean remains a solid regional airline with a respectable network albeit with a notable shift from the transfer model towards the O&D market where it faces stiff competition from no-frills carriers that in some respect of service they’re starting to resemble.

The pros:

+ Good and functional website
+ Free seat selection
+ Free catering albeit much more limited than in recent years
+ Crew well versed in English
+ Crew uniforms
+ Announcements in destinations language
+ Modern and clean aircraft (no IFE)
+ Solid route network although seeing some cuts

The cons:

- Athens airport
--> Although some improvements have been done it is still a long way from being a pleasant and comfortable transfer hub such as Doha especially for long layovers, choice of food, entertainment options and even internet are limited, no lounges or quiet areas; restaurants don’t have their own Wi-Fi connection but rely on the airport one
--> Wi-Fi information is misleading. Albeit publicly stated we needed to reconnect and pass the verification every 60 minutes in reality the connection was automatically cut every 20 minutes or so making work while in transfer difficult and irritating
--> Ground staff at Athens airport are some of the worst I've met worldwide.
They know to litteraly harrass passengers over small details and check for visa requirements and passport expiry at boarding gate; some people were charged astronomical sums for their luggage being 2 kilos over 8kg weight.
--> Costly transfer options into town (there's really no alternative if going into Athens)
--> Remote location from Athens city
- Bland and uninspiring livery
- Brand lacks originality, character and something to distinguish itself (unlike Olympic)
- Catering becoming scarce
- Cabin preparations for landing done way too early in a pressured manner
- Horrendous ground staff
- Only 8kg of hand luggage strictly enforced
- Boarding/disembarking always done through buses&remote stands regardless of weather and availability of gates at the airport
- Impossible to contact them via e-mail
- No direct channel of contact for PRESS

Overall note: 5.7/10

All in all after flying with Aegean one phrase resonates: nothing bad, but nothing good either.
That follows a more wider trend in aviation worldwide or at least in Europe.

Beirut airport

Thanks for reading.


Share your travel experience by submitting a trip report to exyu@exyuaviation.com


Comments

  1. Nice and detailed report. Thanks.

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  2. Interesting report. I guess their service has to match their prices.

    '... and staff was checking passport data at the boarding gate...'

    Actually Air Serbia does this too.

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    1. Makes sense if it would lead to Lebanese denying entry to certain passengers.

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  3. I was surprised by your comment on transfer options to the city. This is what I have found:

    "The metro line departs from Athens airport every 30 minutes (05′ and 35′), and costs 10€ one way or 18€ for a round-trip. The journey takes around 50 minutes, but there are no trains after 23:35. Although the Metro is one of the cheaper options, it isn't the most reliable transfer."

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    1. The info is correct. Or you can take the bus which costs EUR 6 one-way (there are 4 bus lines that go to the main square; to Piraues so you can catch your ferry; to the main bus station and to one southern suburb). The reviewer seems to have chosen a bad transfer option (long layover) and was not in a good mood when writing the review haha.

      I don't want to go into rebuttals, but I've never experienced any of the mentioned cons and I have travelled quite a lot with Aegean. I know they will weigh your luggage if you are boarding with the last group, so if you are over the limit make sure to board first. Contact Us page is fine (in general, phone support is better at every company because the need to go back-and-forth with various people is reduced) and the press comment is just lol. Maybe they don't like the reviewer's publication so they're keeping the email hidden :D

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    2. I'm also wondering which press organization Aerologic is from :D

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    3. Btw the reviewer rocks - there is no way I could have ever written a detailed review like this ha. I don't wanna bash anyone, just pointing out some things I fully don't agree with, since I fly Aegean a lot (and consequently spend a lot of time at AIA).

      So I have to cycle back because I just realized why the reviewer was complaining about the location of the airport. The airport is farther than the old Ellinikon airport (which is now basically right next to the city center), but it's not any farther than most European airports. But the reviewer had the 10-hour layover which is kinda the worst possible layover length. It's very long, but not long enough to enable you to go to the city center, snoop around a bit (maybe visit an archaeological site or a museum) and then go back on time to reach an Extra-Schengen flight. You would literally have only a few hours downtown. That's why I called this a bad layover option. Incredibly long to spend the time in the terminal, but not long enough to make some use of it.

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    4. He could pay more and have a shorter layover. ;)

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    5. Can you see the past?

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    6. See past? What are you talking about. Do you work for an online travel magazine?

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    7. I ask cause you seem to know the schedules, prices and my duties on that day.

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    8. What duties? You sat at airport whole day.

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    9. Are you dumb or just playing dumb?

      I asked you a precise question.

      Some of us have work that requires us to be online the whole day. Therefore it doesn't matter to me whether I'm home, in the city or at an airport as far as I can get the work done.

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    10. I am not a cry baby, not the baby-sitting type of passenger and I am used to long layovers.

      As title says this is a review. I.e even if I didn't go into the city on this occasion this is a way to inform travellers about what should they expect.

      Also, I'd never quite understand the Balkan mentality where as soon as they get out of their country everything is suddenly 'cheap' for them. FYI the bus we're talking about that takes around an hour puts the bus 72 at an equivalent of 700 dinars one-way for the same type of service. Yet I am hearing some 'not understanding my comments'. Mind-boggling. The metro you're talking about costs only 1.5-3 EUR. few stations downstream. I'm sorry you're unable to differentiate rip-off and efficient public service.

      For me traveling abroad is more of a way of life so I'm not in the "two week all-i-can-spend mentality". I have been to hundreds of airports worldwide and I'm always comparing them on all levels as it can be seen in this review. Funny how out of all topics you decided to stick to public transportation.

      As for the last commentator, i'm staff with one of the regional airlines so when I want to save a few pennies I simply fly with them.

      End of the topic.

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    11. @ Aэrologic
      What a rude answer!

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    12. Chillax, dude. Also, "end of the topic"? Hopefully you don't have any subordinates, you must be a lovely boss.

      Yes, we decided to stick to public transport because you bundled it into a flight review (along with PR/media complaints and all sorts of other random comments, such as a livery review, airport review and the public transport network). L O L :D

      We also travel a lot and some of us travel a lot to Athens especially, so we wanted to point out you did not investigate enough because claiming the taxi is the only option to get to/from the airport is just bollocks. Those buses run 24/7, unlike Belgrade's 72 bus which does not (and which is basically a "forced" extension of a line that's meant for the Bezanijska kosa area). EUR 6 is cheap for a big tourist destination like Athens (considering the country is using euros and that trip is around 30 km).

      And let's focus on one more point of yours - the livery is simply wonderful, very minimalist and not "in your face". Some of us like minimalism and cold blue colors :)

      You always get a wet napkin (the poor FA must have not added).

      Since you're very detailed you could have mentioned those cardboard boxes are reused, which gives them extra points for eco consciousness.

      And really - that was actually a non-revenue ticket?

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    13. Since you've been to Athens so often you might want to explain to me how a comfortable tourist bus from Rafina or Nea Makri to central Athens costs 3 Eur. despite a distance of about 40 km. while the uncomfortable and crowded - often not air-conditioned - X95 that passes through different neighborhoods and is nothing else than an extension of a public line costs 6 Eur. Unless you arrive in the middle of the night, i don't see what difference it makes to you whether the 72 is running 24 hours or not. Fuel doesn't costs more at night to justify it. Metro in Athens also stops even earlier than the №72 in Belgrade.

      To me it seems that you're not very smart and accept whatever is thrown at you under no matter what pretext as long as it's in a nice package, typical consumerist behavior, since you must suffer from a common complex of lower-value that many Balkan people share - and don't tell me you're not from there since i can smell it from miles away.

      Basically to prove yourself you can pay for an overpriced service in the West proves you that you're worth something and that you've accomplished something in life although more often than not your parents pay for you.

      In the meanwhile i grew up in a country where we criticize and take a deep scrutiny at public services no matter how 'touristic it is'. Fuel doesn't suddenly becomes more expensive or engine gets into a special overdrive mode for the stretch outside Athens city and suburbs. Actually, on the highway the bus consumes much less than in city mode.

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    14. I also don't quite get it how all aspects of air travel don't fit it this review according to your narrow-minded experience since airports and ways to get to them are integral part of air travel and airport appeal. You'll find that in many reviews. Not sure what is your benchmark but it must be pretty poor if me discussing livery and the airport itself amazes you. Sorry not your usual last-minute rock-bottom charter deal to Greek islands but international transfer between poorly connected places.

      Nobody ever discussed taxi options since as it was said i even didn't get into town this time around. Instead this information was more oriented towards solo travelers who - if they are as ecologically oriented as you claim you are - would take the metro or bus to lower their carbon footprint which here isn't certainly a cheap (=cost base justified) option especially if you're traveling in a group of 3 or more people.

      If Athens is touristic, then it should be confident to be able to charge people on other services and activities, give them good value for long-term benefit and give people choices on ways to transfer. Here simply choices aren't that great and could be way better as they used to be in the past. I don't see how Geneva that is certainly also touristic and one of the financial hubs in Europe can offer passengers 80 min. free transport vouchers or Istanbul - where metro costs 2 Eur. into town. Neither are less touristy or noticeably less developed than Greece. I mean, let's say it again - being 'touristy' doesn't increase your fuel expense per kilometer, it simply doesn't. No matter how much you want it to be that way to make yourself feel better. Finally, Belgrade's A1 runs round the clock and costs about 2.5 Euros for a direct service without any roaming around crowded neighborhoods in rush hours as it can be the case in the X95. If the role of public transport is to dissuade people from using taxis or private cars for ecological and other reasons by providing a viable alternative here it simply is not happening. That is why it certainly deserves attention and it's a rightful spot in this review. On the contrary, public transport prices here rather push passengers to use the taxis or car-rental agencies i.e the other way around.

      I trained to be a pilot and besides maths and physics i work with quite exact sciences requiring a high level of precision and leaving small margin for error. That possibly could be reflected in this review. I'm sorry if it's too much for some. Nobody was forced to read.

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    15. Since we came to maths and to end this story: a typical Solaris Urbino18 articulated bus (used in Athens) uses around 56 litters of fuel per 100 kilometers in the worst case scenario. Metro per kilometer/energy uses even less. So that makes it that in a typical scenario the bus X95 would consume about 20 liters of diesel fuel for its trip from Syntagma to Athens airport. Let's say 25 to be on the safe side and in the case of traffic jams on narrow roads around Ag. Nikolaos. That makes it around 40 Euros. cost of fuel if we assume fuel isn't subsidized in Greece for public transport what i certainly doubt but let's say it isn't for the sake of simplicity. As fuel usually makes about half of the total expenses versus driver's salary, maintenance, bus purchase etc. let's double that price and say the total costs of the bus transfer would be 80 Euros. It would mean that the bus X95 is heavily profitable already from carrying as little as 13 passengers ALL THE WAY from Syntagma to Athens airport without NOBODY entering from central Athens to Aggelaki. That simply never happens and on usual days in rush hour it can carry around 300 people on the segment. Bus single capacity is 160 passengers. Taking all that into account the ticket price without discount of 1.4 Eur. as for the rest of the Athens metro area seems very justified and a 100% surplus could be placed on it at best for the last stretch from Athens suburbs to the airport making it 3 Eur. in total. Otherwise it's just what it is called - an overpriced service taking advantage of passengers such as you. Maths don't lie. I guess if so much attention is placed to my comment it means i must have hit a nerve i.e telling the truth.

      http://oaji.net/articles/2017/766-1490893754.pdf

      Also, you're welcome to write your own review.

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    16. Побегли мишеви.

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    17. Nisu misevi pobegli, nego admin brise komentare :) Sto je u redu, ne bi trebalo da se svadjamo, posebno ako nema poente kao sto se da videti kod doticnog rivjuera.

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    18. Shut up hipster

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    19. Everyone seems mega unhinged haha.

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  4. wow they have really slashed their food service

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  5. To get to Athens from the airport or to the port of Piraeus I always take the express buses which are right outside the arrivals and cost 6 Euros. They take sightly less time than the metro which I think it is 10 Euros.

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    1. In my opinion the metro is the most convenient way to get to the city. Unfortunately it can get extremely crowded and, as with anything in Greece, it can be on strike quite often. I think it was last year when all public transport companies went on strike and you had to take the taxi into the city. A ride to Syntagma was around 35 Euros which isn't that bad. The same distance in Cyprus would be 70 Euros!

      I remember when the airport opened, a one-way metro ticket cost 3 Euros.

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    2. Athens airport ranks second most expensive in Europe for airport transfers.

      https://romanroams.com/en/airport-transfers-europe/

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    3. 35-40 eur for such a long ride is very reasonable. This summer I took taxi twice from/to ATH and I was very satisfied. It is definitely not the second most expensive in Europe for transfers. :)))

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    4. Public transfers.

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    5. Taxi is the public transport in all European jurisdictions.

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    6. No, it isn't.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_transport

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  6. Quite good report. Much appreciated!

    It's quite interesting the fact that AirSerbia had such a great success in Albania. They have actually used more frequently A319 for their trip to Tirana rather than ATR72. It has gradually become a popular destination as well.

    Would have wanted to see Croatia Airlines in TIA. Pity.

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  7. Great report. Thanx. I don't really understand all the fuss about Aegan and the quality of its services. My experiences are quite similar, all in all around 5/10.

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  8. Very interesting report. Very glad to hear you enjoyed Albania, hope to see you visit again

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    1. You're welcome.

      Greetings from Beirut.

      https://youtu.be/9-t3Vtg4EzI

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  9. Last time I used A3 was in July on the route JMK-ATH-BCN. I couldnt choose the seat. I got to the check in counter and asked the lady to get me an aile seat, preferably with an empty seat next to
    It, coz I was sick and just wanted to be a bit more comfortable. I checked in at the business counter (holding the ELITE TK card), even If i flew in economy. The lady was far from being nice and I was told they cant change the allocated seat in the system if I didnt pay for it. I insisted a bit, so
    She talked with her collegue and she got me an aile seat on both flights, and she told me that the first leg is full, but that on the second leg (ATH-BCN) i will get an aile seat with 2 seats blocked next to me so I could sleep. I got my bording passes. I didnt check the seats coz I didnt see any reason not to trust her. When I boarded I realized my both seats were window seats and seats next to mine werent blocked or free, so I got
    Squeezed into the window seat. I was pissed off. She was literally looking into my
    Eyes and lying.

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    1. Why couldn't you chose the seat? I have no issues when flying out of LCA or BEG with them. By the way, they do charge you for a seat in the first 12 rows as they have greater legroom there.

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    2. Horrendous ground staff.

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  10. First leg was (is) operated by Olympus, so I could seect the seat. I dont remember why i wasnt able to do that on the second leg. But obviously they have the policy not to change the seat location once you are at the check in and u can only keep the seat chosen by the system (well, her collegue was able to trick the system and changed my seat, but ...i still didnt get the aile one).

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    1. Seat selection is chargeable now. Even at check-in and also for gold members (however for their own golds is 50% discounted...).

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    2. That's a pity.

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    3. Thats what I got. I find this nasty, how can u charge a seat selection to someone who is a gold member? I mean, this is not something they have extra costs with, its just shitty low cost model applied even to frequent travelers. Nasty.

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