Carfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1803 posts, RR: 9 Posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 8498 times:
Aegean vs. Olympic Air: Tale of Two Greek Airlines
Here is a series of trip reports on a number of new airlines that I have the fortune to travel on recently. This is the first trip report on two major Greek airlines – Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air. I am not going to compare them as I traveled on three sectors with A3, including one of its longest routes on its network – London to Athens, and only one short domestic sector on Olympic Air from Athens to Thessaloniki. All four flights are in their business class cabin, which include lounge access but seats are the same as most intra-European airlines – first section of economy class with a bit more legroom and blocked middle seats. However I am able to have a row of three seats all to myself on all four flights, so the review is more positive. I am sure things will be a bit tight if it is completely full. I also paid a very high price for all four flights – not the most expensive, but discounted business class.
Here are the flight segments and related flight information:
(A3 – Aegean Airlines; OA – Olympic Air)
May 18, 2012
A3 601 LHR-ATH Lv1150 Arr1730 Airbus A321-200 SX-DGA
May 19, 2012
OA 906 ATH-SKG Lv0920 Arr1010 Airbus A320-200 SX-OAQ
A3 111 SKG-ATH Lv1215 Arr1305 Airbus A320-200 SX-DVV “Cleisthenes” Acropolis Museum livery
A3 604 ATH-LHR Lv1725 Arr1920 Airbus A320-200 DX-DVK
I arrived from Detroit on Delta, and went to the transit desk at Terminal One in LHR. BMI handles its ground services, but has its own transfer desk (not shared with BD itself, or with LH/OS/LX). When I arrived, it was still too early, so I waited at the Servisair lounge nearby with Priority Pass, and the desk was opened about two hours and more prior to departure. The BD agent was friendly but not able to switch my FF number to Turkish. I felt that most BD agent did not want you to move to other Star Alliance carriers.
At Athens, I got to experience both OA and A3 agents, as I needed to check in bags from Athens on the return flight. Both airlines have their dedicated desks, and the agents speak good English, and everything went well, except OA claimed that I could not earn Delta miles on the OA flights. Aegean agents were a bit less friendly but things were professionally handled with luggage tagged to LHR with the orange priority tag, and lounge invitation provided (considered SKG did not provide me with the lounge pass for the onward ATH to LHR flight).
Olympic Air Check-in at Athens
Thessaloniki airport was a very small and compact airport with joint civil and military operation. Photo taking was not permitted but I was able to sneak in a few pictures. Some staff mostly the managerial types care but some don’t. If you take one or two pictures, nobody say anything, but once you go a bit nuts, they will say something. The terminal was small but modern and operations are limited to mostly Ryanair, A3, and OA, with a number of European airlines operating a few flights here and there. A3 had a whole dedicated counter with business and economy line. Despite no one was checking in when I was there and all lanes were empty, the agents were more than happy to chat among themselves. Since there was no one there, I just walked up to the J line but the agent immediately barked at me and told me I must use the machine. She was very rude and I did not understand why she would not let her colleague just check me in. She changed her tone after she saw the business class booking and star gold status, but it was a very unprofessional experience.
Not going to talk about BD Great London lounge, as most of you have sufficient information about it and can easily find pictures of the lounge. It was one of the nicer Star Alliance lounges in Terminal One and the best thing about traveling on bmi. I love the large windows and since the planes were using R/W9L for arrival, I got to watch many planes in and out. The free wifi was easier to use now with the Cloud network.
ZK-OKQ Air New Zealand all black 77W from LAX
BA and BMI – ironic pictures
My inbound flight finally landed 30 minutes behind schedule (lots of circling according to flightradar24)
Aegean Airlines’ A320 SX=DVT arriving from LCA and going back there
Olympic Air Lounge at Schegen area for domestic and intra-European flights.
OA lounge was very quiet this Saturday morning so I was able to take a large number of pictures plus I really do not know when the next time will be.
The lounge itself was very large with comfortable sofa and TV stations on both sides playing mainly BBC.
There was a dining area in the middle with self-serving beverage and food stations.
Full array of hard liquors
Real glasses and cups
I love the Olympic Air logo cups
Continental breakfast spread
Fruit and yogurt
Warm cookies – good
There is no Internet service but Athens airport provide one hour of complimentary internet for all passengers. Computers are available on the international lounges.
There were three staffs sitting around and they were all friendly. Dishes and cups were cleaned in a reasonable speed. Flight information was announced in the lounge for OA flights.
Thessaloniki Aegean Airline Lounge
Definitely the best lounge experience on this trip and the lounge is not big at all, but the design is very unique. Modern furniture is used and I like the red spotlights decorations. Food selection is still limited to mostly packaged snacks and pastries, but at least the lounge is designed in a very specific way. There is a dining area, along with a business center. Television is on playing local programs, but I love the view of the windows overlooking the main apron. Unfortunately I was stopped by one of the agents. The main problem was that lots of ground staffs especially for A3 used one of the entrance doors in the lounge to get in and out of the apron. There are no jet bridges here at SKG but one good thing is that business and status passengers boarded separately from the lounge, at least for Aegean Airlines own flights. Now I will let the pictures do the talking.
Entrance area with candies, towelette and papers
My choice this morning
Few pictures at the apron before being caught
SX-OAQ returning to Athens
Can’t help to sneak a few pictures of this specially named A3 A320 “Cleisthenes”
Olympic Airlines International Lounge at Athens
Aegean Airlines strangely used Olympic Air lounge in the international section. The lounge is identical to the domestic and Schegen lounge, but a bit larger in size. The furniture is all the same, along with the TVs playing BBC. The buffet selection is a bit more extensive as it caters to a number of international airlines, including Emirates and Egypt Air. Lunch includes sandwiches, cold cuts, sliced cheese, packaged snacks, and cookies, along with warmed chicken meatballs, nuggets, and spring rolls. Beverages are the same. However there is a business center featuring three computers with Internet connection, to compensate for the lack of wifi for lounge users.
Carfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1803 posts, RR: 9 Reply 1, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 8498 times:
Flight information and on time performance:
Both airlines are very punctual for their domestic operations and ex-Greece operations. The only delay was the first flight from Heathrow to Athens on A3 601. The inbound aircraft did not arrive at gate until 11:11am, due to low ceiling and ATC. It took the plane an hour and five minutes to push back. Boarding took place at gate 5b, right below the Great London lounge, and the gate area was very busy, as there was another A3 flight to Larnaca, along with an Iceland Air flight to Keflavik. There was a Costa Coffee in this oddly located gate clusters mainly servicing bmi international midhaul flights. Boarding did not take place till 11:50am and there was priority boarding available. Most passengers seemed to respect it and I was the first one to board the plane, as I wanted to take pictures of the cabins. I was greeted immediately the leading F/A, and there were more than seven rows of seats blocked for business class seats, but the flight was not full. There was originally a passenger seated at the aisle seat, but after the door was closed, he moved across to the other side, as they were empty. The loading was about eight and nine passengers in business and economy looked 100% full. Unlike other European airlines, A3 offers pre-takeoff beverages (choice of orange juice or sparkling wine) on the medium haul flights to European countries (but no pre-takeoff beverages for domestic flights).
However, candies were offered to the whole plane prior to takeoff. Door was closed at 12:16pm, and we pushed back shortly after. Takeoff queue was reasonable this afternoon and we took off from R/W9R at 12:38pm. Flying time was three hours and six minutes, with the routing taking us over Gillingham, Sandwich, and Dunkirk before reaching 33,000feet. Then we passed Mouscron, Rastatt, Leutkirchim Allgau, Vittoro Veneto, Carole, and Pula before climbing to 35,000feet. Then we passed through Karya and Araxos airport before heading straight at Athens. Descent began at 5:20pm local time, and we landed on R/W20R at 5:44pm local time, and parked at a remote spot, “B40” at 3:48pm.
For OA 906, the aircraft arrived from Thessaloniki this morning and was early. There was a real gate this morning, B7, and boarding began at 9:01am. The loading was very light, and J had about five passengers and I got the whole row to myself again. The F/As were more cheerful on this Olympic Air flight and newspapers were offered to business class passengers, and candies to the whole plane. Door was closed early at 9:18am, and we pushed back four minutes later. We took off from R/W3R at 9:31am for our short 33 minutes flight cruising at 27,000feet before moving down to 23,000feet due to turbulence. Descent began at 9:43am and we landed on R/W34 at 10:04am. We parked at spot #4 at 10:08am.
OA A320 getting ready for my flight to SKG
OA A320 at SKG
For A3 111, it was another on time performance, and the inbound came in from Athens and arrived on time at spot “6” again. Boarding began at 11:50am for normal economy passengers and business class passengers were called at 12:05pm, and we got our own bus, which was very good and I gave a big thumb up for A3 and OA to allow premium passengers to board last and to deplane first. Door was closed at 12:10pm after we all settled. The usual candies and newspapers make its round. We pushed back at 12:14pm and took off from R/W34 at 12:19pm. Flying time was a short thirty-four minutes at 27,000feet. Descent began at 12:36pm and we landed on R/W3L at 12:53pm and parked at gate B15 at 12:58pm.
For A3 604, the plane arrived from Brussels earlier in the afternoon and we used gate A3 this evening. The flight was lightly booked in both cabins and boarding was less hassled. Boarding began at 5:03pm and door was closed at 5:21pm. The leading F/A finally offered to hang my coat – the only time after three A3 flights. We pushed back at 5:30pm and began a very strange taxing ritual. We first headed to R/W3L following a BA Airbus A320 G-EUUV heading to Heathrow as well. Just as we took our turn at R/W3L and even rolled into the runway, the plane suddenly rolled high speed towards the first exit. I was worried for a minute as we taxied back towards the satellite terminal, but there was no announcement except an internal call to the F/As. Then we taxied towards R/W3R and finally took off at 5:58pm. I never knew what went wrong initially. We climbed towards 36,000feet and stayed there for the whole flight, which was three hours and thirty-one minutes. Descent began at 6:55pm London local time (two hours behind Athens). Circling was not too bad and we landed on R/W9L at 7:29pm and parked at spot “247R” at 7:35pm.
Cross the Alps
Routing of A3 604, thanks to the Sky Map function
Cabin and seats:
I took pictures of both Aegean A320 and A321, and the seats were all the same, and you could not really tell the difference until you located the emergency exits. With the curtains drawn in business class, there was no way you could tell. A3 uses the latest Recaro slim seats, which in theory provide more legroom, but the padding was a bit less than the usual seats. I felt that the seats were not as thin as Lufthansa, but anyway, it was okay. There was a table situated in the middle, and nothing out of the extraordinary. However branding was everywhere in A3 and even the carpet features the bird like motifs.
Middle seat with tray table
Seat Control – audio/video
Regular seat – audio/video
The overhead panel was overhauled too with updated individualized air nozzles and softer LED reading lights.
Olympic Air also uses the convertible seats for intra-European business class service. The seats are more padded and different from the Recaro seats used by A3. The legroom was pretty good and instead of a table, OA just placed a pillow in the middle seat. Honestly both airlines feature similar seats and are both comfortable for short flights. I will like Aegean Airlines uses a more proper business class seat on the London flights, but let be honest, it is not possible anymore.
Carfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1803 posts, RR: 9 Reply 2, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 8489 times:
Food and beverages on the Greek airlines are definitely impressive, and better than most major European airlines. Aegean Airlines provides a full sized menu and wine list on the London flights, which feature Mediterranean style meals. I will admit the taste is not to my liking, but have a feeling that it has to do with my personal taste, rather than poor preparation on the airlines part. The meal service was served in a leisure pace, as only one F/A served up front. Not sure if it is because of the light load in J, but anyway, things were acceptable for a day flight. They attempt to be more personal and no trolley was used at any time. Hot towel service was offered but on the outbound flight to ATH, it was served prior to descent, and on the return flight, it was served prior to meal service. Beverage and packaged peanuts are first offered and then placemats were passed out, followed an appetizer course (cheese already on the tray), along with a selection of breads. Entrées were then served, and then a dessert platter was offered, followed by tea and coffee. I have read about digestive and chocolate service but unfortunately they are no longer part of the service.
Here is Aegean Airlines menu and wine list!
Beverage and packaged peanuts
Aegean Airlines Business Class
Dry White Wine
Melissinos 2011, Paterianakis Estate, Thrapsathiri & Sauvignon Blanc
Vidiano 2011 Alexakis, 100% Vidiano
Dry Red Wine
Dafnios 2009, Douloufakis
Nostos 2007, Manousakis, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache and Roussanne
Spirits & Apertifs
Whiskey (Johnny Walker, J&B)// Brandy (Metaxa)// Gin (Gordon’s)// Vodka (Smirnoff)// Ouzo (Plomari)// Sparkling Wine
Brandy (Metaxa)// Chios Mastiha, served with chocolates and pralines (Leonidas)
Assortment of Lager Beers (Heineken, Amstel)
Orange Juice (Amita)// Tomato Juice (Rea)// Ice Tea (Nestea Lemon)// Tonic Water (Tuborg)
Soda Water (Tuborg)// Coca-Cola// Coca-Cola Zero// Sprite// Natural Mineral Water (Avra)
Served with Dry Roasted Peanuts (Pellito)
Coffees: Filter Coffee (Jabocs)// Espresso// Cappuccino (Illy)// Decaffeinated (Nescafe)
Teas: Black Tea (Blue Valley)// Lipton (Green Tea)
London to Athens
Fava Bean Salad with Capers and Smoked Trout
Receipe of Selini Restaurant Santorini
Hot Entrée Choice of
Chicken Breast with Pistachio served with Oven Potatoes and spicy Capers Sauce
Grilled Fillet of Salmon with Fennel Cream Sauce, Tomato Sauce, Spinach and Buttered Noodles
Feta Cheese and Graviera of “Tinos” with Dried Fruits
Traditional Greek Desserts in Syrup
HM-R3-8 R Summer 2012
Athens to London Heathrow
Grilled Manouri Cheese on a bed of Green salads, Croutons and Roasted Pine Nut Seeds
Hot Entrée Choices of
Veal Stew with Leeks, Celery and Herbs on Buttered Pasta “Olive Leaves”
Fillet of Perch with Paprika Sauce on Basmati Rice with herbed Chic peas
Feta Cheese and Graviera of “Tinos” with Dried Fruits
Traditional Greek Desserts in Syrup
HM-R3-8 G Summer 2012
For the shorter domestic flight, a proper meal service was offered in business class and yes both airlines offer a beverage service in economy, who says that a beverage service can’t be offered on a thirty-five minutes flight in Y.
Olympic Air gets a higher mark from me because a warm component is offered. Hot towels (more than wet hot paper napkins in OA) are first offered, followed by paper placemats. Beverage orders were than taken and a tray was offered. Today morning snack features two warmed pastries – one with ham and cheese and the other one is filled with feta cheese, and there was a bowl of yogurt with sour cherry jam – a new chef creation. Tea and coffee are also offered at this time.
Aegean Airlines offers a cold snack service, and real hot towels are first offered, along with beverages. Then placemat and a cold snack, and tea and coffee service are offered if requested. The cold snack features three small sandwiches – Turkey and radicchio and mayonnaise, Feta and sundried tomato, and Turkey and cheese, along with a Leonidas’ milk chocolate square.
I still like OA meal service a bit better and wonder what they offered on the similar flights to London. I wish I had the chance to experience its new business class meal services on its longer flights to Eastern Europe and Israel in the future. However they are in the midst of finding a way to merge with A3. Anyway. A3 offers a commendable service so I can’t complaint much.
Aegean Airlines showed a movie on the flights to and from London, and free headsets were passed out shortly after takeoff. “Iron Lady” was shown on the outbound flight to Athens and “We Bought a Zoo” in the return flight to LHR. Then air shows remained on till landing. Domestic flights were too short to offer any video. But I cant’ recall that Olympic Air A320s feature any type of drop down screens as they perform their safety demo live. Duty free was offered after meal service on the Aegean Airlines London flights.
Both airlines hire very young and attractive looking girls to be their flight attendants, and their uniforms include sleeveless full-length skirt, which the F/As wear for the domestic sectors. Honestly I find the Olympic Air F/As to be friendlier and more eager to go beyond their ways to make sure you have a great flight. However Aegean Airlines F/As are also polite and professional. They are great with kids but feel that they are not as attentive as OA. Nonetheless, it is hard to make a direct comparison as I did not have experience another flight on OA or flew a longer segment with OA.
Nonetheless I think A3 F/As can be more organized and the way they take beverage order is time consuming. They just ask you want to drink and then run back to the galley to get them, and then ask the next passenger. This can take a long time and the F/As could have just taken drink orders after takeoff and that will save them time and will not take away the personal time. Entrée services are good though and the return F/A from ATH to LHR just brought out both entrées for passengers to look at, and passengers just ordered them. Sort of like CX! Nonetheless I feel that they can do more service after the meal.
Arrival experiences are actually very good with both airlines. Despite deplaning using stairs, both airlines offer a separate bus for business class passengers, which is not a big deal but a nice thing to do. European airlines like to cramp their buses, which make boarding a plane through buses unpleasant. If I am flying a LCC that is expected, but if you are a full service airline, you can afford a less crowded bus. Priority bags worked at both Athens and London for A3. Indeed I timed the return flight to LHR, my bag came out eighteen minutes after we parked at gate. My priority tag bags came out first. Anyway, it is a very nice experience flying these Greek airlines and they are a bit more personable than most major European airlines. I like A3 printed menus and wine lists. I still hope to get an OA flight with a longer flight length in the future and hope OA can bring back flights to some Western European cities.
Now random pictures:
Landing into SKG
Olympic Air Stair
Arriving into LHR
Thanks for reading and the next report will have a “Hello and Farewell” theme!
gabrielchew From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 2802 posts, RR: 13 Reply 4, posted (1 year 6 months 2 weeks 2 days 12 hours ago) and read 7682 times:
Great timing for this report - I booked LHR-LCA-LHR with A3 in Business class yesterday! Service looks very good on both carriers. Funny how Greek Airlines are able to provide such good service and catering in the air, when the economy on the ground is falling apart.