23rd April 2015 at 16:00 #588707
Anonymous23rd April 2015 at 16:00 #588708
THESSALONIKI – ATHENS ON AEGEAN IN BUSINESS CLASS
I had a day of meetings in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki (SKG), which is served by both Aegean Airlines and Ryanair from Athens (where I’m based). Olympic, now wholly owned by Aegean, codeshare on the route but don’t operate their own aircraft on this sector. Aegean operate between 7-8 flights daily between the ATH and SKG using a combination of A320 and A321 aircraft. The flight is around 45 mins long. I will review the return sector to Athens in Business Class as I spent a lot of time in the Aegean Lounge before the flight so will include it in the review.
Thessaloniki airport is located about 15kms from the city centre. It’s reachable by taxi (about €15) or bus (€2 and 35mins). The airport itself is a 1960s construction with about 10 gates, all requiring bus connections to aircraft. There are no aerobridges. The terminal is clean but quite dated. The arrivals area has several hire car company offices plus some travel agencies and a few coffee shops (without seating) selling the usual coffee and snacks. Prices are high (as expected) and the range of cold and hot options (mainly pies etc) decent. The departures area has nothing worth seeing before security but after security (and immigration for those travelling ex Shengen) there is a great (and large) duty free area with a range of products.
I checked in on-line and had no luggage so I picked up my boarding pass from the self-serve kiosk, went through security and head straight for the Aegean Lounge which is located at the far end of the terminal next to the gates. The Aegean Lounge at SKG is one of my favourite lounges because it feels like a very large living room. It’s about 5 years old and still looks good for its age. After the initial service desk there is a short corridor which leads into a relatively large lounge area next to which there is the food and beverage counter with a few tables and chairs. I headed straight to the lounge area. This consisted of several oversized and very comfortable sofas and armchairs arranged around some large coffee tables. The sofas are the type you could easily fall asleep on and are great for relaxing, but not so much for working on a laptop. My flight was at 11.45pm and I arrived around 9pm. I had no intention to work and was grateful to find a nice corner to park myself. There was a power-point nearby and I plugged myself in for 2+ hours of doing nothing but eating/drinking and catching up on some tv series I’d downloaded. The wi-fi was free and fast. The view from the lounge looks out onto the apron where the aircraft park. During the day, the floor to ceiling glass windows allow for lots of natural light to fill the lounge space. At night, you can see the planes lit up as they’re parked and watch the arrival and departure process from the luxury of a sofa. It can be fun entertainment.
In terms of food and beverage, the self-service bar consisted of the usual spirits and a choice of one each of red and white (local Greek wines) plus a wide selection of beers, soft drinks and juices. There was an Nespresso machine, an espresso machine (cappuccino/latte etc) plus filter coffee and a decent selection of teas. Savoury items consisted of a selection of gourmet sandwiches, traditional spinach/cheese pies served warm in a heated display plus a variety of breads, a cheese board and nuts. Sweets included doughnuts, traditional Greek cream pies, rice pudding, yogurts and chocolates plus fruit. All were replenished frequently, even though there were very few of us waiting.
Boarding commenced at 11.35 and, for those in the lounge, a separate bus is provided to take passengers to the waiting aircraft. In the case of my flight, I was the only passenger waiting and, despite my offer to board from the gate around the corner, was told the bus was on its way to pick me up. This was very good service and offered to me, I suspect, because I was a Business Class customer. Within a minute I was at the aircraft and boarded from the forward door via stairs. I was seated in seat 1F, the bulkhead window. The middle seat was blocked. The flight had originated in Dusseldorf and there was another passenger in Business who had connected. The aircraft stops only briefly in Thessaloniki en route to Athens (and vv the other way) and remaining passengers don’t leave the aircraft. I was offered an orange juice as we waited for the last bus to arrive.
We left in time. The flight lasts 45 mins and the service is limited for this reason. After take-off I was offered another drink (anything from the bar). I had a Gin and Tonic served with salmon filled brioche and some Greek baklava and chocolates on a china plate. Glass-wear was used for the drinks. I was also offered a newspaper and/or magazine. Both in Greek and which I declined. The service was professional, friendly and efficient. What always makes me laugh with many European airlines is that the crew, when addressing passengers over the PA in their non-native English often rush the announcements as if they’re in a race to finish (which the probably are). Not sure if they’re shy speaking English or just don’t care. Anyway, the Aegean cabin crew did it again this time and it made me laugh given that, on this occasion, it was more due to shyness I suspected. Aegean have also introduced new uniforms and the ladies looked very nice in the dark navy blue dresses with red and white highlights. Very Air France and quite stylish.
We arrived slightly early and parked at the terminal. This was strange as Aegean have, the last few years, been parking their last flights for the day remotely and bussing passengers to the terminal, despite the terminal gates being virtually all free. This is annoying when viewed from a cramped bus filled with other passengers who have also been travelling for hours, sometimes many hours when arriving from Star Alliance hubs such as London, Frankfurt and Zurich having connected from a long haul US, Africa or Asia flight. On this occasion we parked at the terminal and I was at the cab-rank in 10 minutes given I had no checked luggage. All in all, a great domestic flight that was faultless in all respects.
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