TRIP REPORT: Aegean, Athens – Sarajevo via Skopje


Written by Slobodan Delić

When Aegean announced their flights from Skopje to Sarajevo, I wondered whether this route is worth trying especially because at the time of the route opening announcement, an OW fare was exorbitant. My other thought was that opening this route at the beginning of October is destined to fail given it’s timetable and notorious fogs at Sarajevo Airport. But more about that at the end of this report ….

In early October I checked my OW options to Sarajevo, where I was born, and on 18th October 2023 the quoted fare for economy light (Aegean unlike Air Serbia offers its Gold members an extra free pc of luggage even when this is not provided in the lowest fare bracket so I had one piece of luggage in hold for free) was at around €85. I quickly jumped at the opportunity and booked my flight to Sarajevo via Skopje. The three weekly flights between Skopje and Sarajevo are operated under what is known as “seventh freedom” and uses the same equipment that flies six times a week from Athens to Skopje operated by Aegean’s fully owned turboprop subsidiary Olympic Air, successor of the once mighty Olympic Airlines established by Aristotle Onassis and sold for one Greek drachma back in mid 1970s to the Greek State upon the tragic loss of his son Alexander in a plane crash he piloted. It is interesting to read both about how Alexandros died and the conspiracy theory related to it, and how Olympic Airlines became a tool for subsequent Greek governments to lure votes in exchange for privileges granted in form of employment or free transport by the former airline. Finally, after two attempts at consolidation, Olympic Airlines was privatised to the MIG group in 2009 and became Olympic Air. In 2014 after lifting the EU free competition concerns and death of MIG owner, the company became part of the Aegean group, offering turboprop connections and routes guaranteed to Olympic by bilateral treaties.

The plane that operates this route is an ATR72-600. Aegean acquired ATR72 family aircraft for Olympic Air recently and they replaced the formerly owned Dash-8-400QRs. The airplane operating my flight had SX-OBN registration.

The Aegean business lounge at the non-Schengen departure section of Athens International Airport is a prime facility, among the best in the world. Have a look:

The plane leaves Athens in the afternoon and after approximately one hour and ten minutes reaches Skopje. Interestingly the cabin crew on this flight wore Aegean uniforms and offered standard Aegean short haul service consisting of a sandwich and selection of both cold and hot beverages for free.

I sat in seat 2D which provides descent comfort for a person of my build. Perhaps taller individuals would not be as happy.

The flight took off from the midpoint of runway 03L and after a few minutes turned northwest in an almost straight line towards Skopje. Here is a birds-eye view of Athens Airport’s north apron and runway 03R/21L.

Shortly after passing Thessaloniki and Kaimaktsalan (Kajmakčalan in Serbian transliteration famous for glorious battle in WWI that took place there and which opened a way to Serbian army to liberate Serbia) the plane took a sharp left turn towards Skopje and in a few minutes started descending. The flight reached Skopje on time and all but 5 passengers (from a total of about 30-35 passengers) ended their journey in Skopje. Here are a few photos of the Skopje apron upon arrival.

The five of us that were in transit were met by an airport attendant who showed us a way through to transit zone, first up the stairs then across the zone of gates 200s. Interestingly, there is no additional security check for arriving passengers from Athens in transit to Sarajevo. I opted to stay for approx.. 35 minutes at the airport business lounge which offers a nice and modern setup and fairly good choice of drinks, beverages, and some hot and finger food along with a selection of deserts.

The boarding gate for the flight to Sarajevo was 101 which is located at the lower (arrivals) level of the terminal building. After a quick walk to the airplane a completely new cabin crew welcomed passengers, this time about 60-65 of us in, surprise, Olympic Air uniforms. The captain remained the same as well as the female first officer. Upon take off in a northern direction, the airplane made a sharp clockwise turn of about 270 degrees and continued over northern Albania and Montenegro. Before reaching the point of descent over Jahorina mountain.

The cabin crew served what is typical for Olympic domestic flights - a glass of still water and a pack of cookies, Greek favourite “Papadopoulou gemista” very much like Air Serbia’s “noblice”.

The plane overflew the old part of Sarajevo towards Visoko, and after two counterclockwise turns of around 130 degrees in total above Kiseljak, the plane was aligned with runway 11 of Sarajevo International Airport. This procedure, typical for arrivals from southeastern and southern directions into Sarajevo Airport, is known for its turbulent nature due to southwesterly winds of rapidly changing directions and even occasional tailwinds making jet planes, and even more so turboprops, “dance” up and down, left and right while finding their way through a narrow valley surrounded by hills and Igman mountain towards the airport runway 11.

The day was windy in Athens, rather windy in Skopje and windy with rain showers in Sarajevo. Although at full capacity, the ATR lightly touched down exactly after an hours flight and after some rather abrupt braking action both by props and brakes, we vacated the runway via the unusual C taxiway and parked just after reaching full apron stop parallel to the terminal building next to the gate 5 air bridge.

By the time I passed passport control, picked up my luggage and rented car, the returning flight took off.

The flights from and to Skopje the next three days were cancelled due to strong southern winds. The approach for turboprops is tricky, in evenings even more so. Croatia Airlines also cancelled their evening flights while Air Serbia’s day flight on October 20th was cancelled before even taking off from Belgrade only to be replaced the next day by bigger A319 that took off from Sarajevo in direction 29 unlike most other flights that day. Scheduled to land and take off between 8 and 9 pm, when the airport is covered by fog during most days in November and December, these flights from Skopje will, my guess is, often be cancelled. Time will tell.

According to the existing timetable, flying in the opposite direction from Sarajevo to Athens via Skopje is rather inconvenient involving long 7 hours overnight layover.

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  1. Anonymous09:23

    Awesome trip report, so informative and interesting.
    Thank you very much, keep them coming!

  2. Anonymous09:29

    Very interesting tripreport 👌

  3. Anonymous09:34

    +1 thanks

  4. Anonymous09:37

    Thank you for the great trip report!
    Do you happen to have any info about the load factor on the return flight to SKP?

    1. Slobodan Delić16:11

      Unfortunately not.

  5. Anonymous09:51

    Is leaving the airplane in SKP mandatory?

    1. Anonymous10:10

      of course it is

    2. Slobodan Delić12:00

      Yes. Two flights (ATH-SKP and SKP-SJJ) have two flight numbers although they are operated by same equipment. Skopje serves as point of transit, therefore (from a bit I understand related to IATA terminology) flight from SKP to SJJ, operated under different flight number than the flight ATH-SKP is operated, operates under so called "seventh freedom" and not "fifth freedom" as it would have been if the same flight number was carried through the whole ATH-SKP-SJJ itinerary.

    3. Anonymous13:26

      Still don't get why you have to get out if it's the same aicraft- stretch your legs?

    4. Anonymous13:55

      @13.26 gosh its two different flights how many times should one repeat it, even if you fly with TK or any airline you can end up on the same aircraft on your connecting flight. Dont you read that even the crew changed

    5. Anonymous15:16

      @13:55 there is no need to be a snob and a bully. There are nice and polite ways to let someone know they missed something. You should look for a counsellor to help you deal with your anger and toxicity.

    6. Anonymous22:50

      Anonymous 15:16 👏

  6. Anonymous10:08

    30 passengers from ATH to SKP is quite bad, it's not even 50% LF.
    Interesting how flight was full to SJJ.

    1. Slobodan Delić16:34

      It’s not great but let’s not forget it is now a route operated six times a week compared to last year and only three weekly flights. I flew in February from Athens to Skopje and there were businessmen who were returning to Athens the same evening only to have had to use a transfer car to Thessaloniki to return to Athens. For one I was driven by a friend to Sofia and returned to Athens from there. I am about to fly from Sofia to Athens tonight and may prepare a small report about A3 service to Athens which is less than glamorous on this route compared to their other routes.

  7. Anonymous10:10

    looks as if exyu routes from Skopje are geting popular

  8. Anonymous11:46

    time maybe for SKP-TGD or TIA?

  9. Anonymous12:23

    One of the most interesting reports that I’ve read. Both SJJ and ATH are “exotic” routes and transferring in SKP is even more “exotic”. I have a question regarding this: Did they direct you in SKP to go upstairs with the escalotors from the bus gate area or from the arrivals and passport control hall? I am curious how will they regulate the transfers if there are higher numbers of transfers.
    As for the routes, I am so surprised that SJJ got such a good LF after few weeks of operation. Nevertheless Aegean did a great job in promoting this route. There were lot of social media ads, banners through the city, free ticket games and so on.
    As for ATH it will always be kind of tricky route. Fares on ATH-SKP are really high for a weekend trip (250€ RT minimum) and for transfers to Western Europe from Skopje Athens adds time on the journey plus is not price competitive compared to JU and OS from SKP. The same situation is price wise regarding connections to US. However loads have improved because one year ago there were not more that 10-15 pax per flights.

    1. Anonymous13:31

      Yeah, there were comments here there is no demant etc between SJJ-SKP. This connection was in the works for some time (years), I dont think there would've been such persistence in establishing this connection if there wasn't any demand.
      Direct flight time is 1h20min vs connecting flights (e.g. via IST) of 6 and 5 hrs respectively totally make sense imo, and at least the beginning shows there is demand.

    2. Slobodan Delić16:18

      Upon walking from the airplane to the terminal building, transit passengers are walking left and upstairs by escalators (non operational if I recall well) while other passengers with destination Skopje are heading to passport control. Having reached the upper floor there is a security control point which in our case was not imposed and passing that point was the airside area of 20x gates. At the middle there is a nice lounge and towards the other end stairs to bus 10x gates. Boarding took place from gate 101.

  10. Anonymous12:58

    Do they provide a sanwiche during the flight catering?

    1. Slobodan Delić16:20

      Yes on the ATH-SKP segment. No on SKP—SJJ segment.

  11. Anonymous13:41

    this is the best option timewise on a return flight from ATH to SJJ = total of 3.45h.
    Other options are at least 5h total travel time.
    Only the SJJ-ATH route is a drag with 9h, but OS offers 5h, so if you combine it like that it's fine.

  12. Anonymous14:04

    Direct ATH-SJJ is needed now. I hope Aegean returns to direct flights next summer

    1. Slobodan Delić16:27

      I flew SJJ-ATH in Summer 2019 and it was really a comfortable and quick connection reaching Athens in aprox. 90 minutes. When flights for Summer 2020 seasons were announced, I purchased a OW ATH-SJJ for 35€. First A3 cancelled the whole route in early 2020 before Covid, then Covid came, but after a bit of convincing the A3 Call center agent who was eager to refund the fair (35€ !!!) I was reissued the INVOL REROUT ticket ATH-MUC-SJJ if I recall well (or was it ATH-IST-SJJ?) ticket in Summer of 2020 which I used.

  13. Rising Sun22:36

    Phenomenal report!!

  14. Anonymous22:43

    Ja sam u petak doletio iz sjj do skp avion pun osoblje ljubazno i vraćam se u ponedjeljak za sjj. Povratna karta sjj-skp-sjj bila je 80 e što je relativno povoljno

    1. Anonymous22:57

      Good to hear

    2. Anonymous13:29


    3. Anonymous22:57

      Wow that is nice to hear. 👏


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