FIRST IMPRESSIONS I arrived at Athens International aiport (also known as Eleftherios Venizelos, after the early 20th-century Greek prime minister) at 0600 for my 0730 A3600 flight to Stansted. Aegean flies twice daily to London, with the afternoon flight departing at 1710. The airport is around 45 minutes from the city centre, and at this time of day the only real option was to get a taxi (about €30) as neither the metro nor the express bus service had started.
There was no queue at check-in for either economy or business, and I was through passport control and airside in a matter of minutes. Official luggage limits for international business class passengers with Aegean are 30kg of checked luggage and two pieces of hand luggage (of which the first can weigh up to 8kg, and the second up to 5kg).
THE LOUNGE Aegean Airlines uses the Swissport lounge (also contracted by Emirates among others), which is located by gate A11 next to the Olympic and BA lounges. It’s a smart, modern space, with cream leather seating, curved white furniture, angled glass tables and a long centrepiece fish tank. There are six computers with internet access near the door, along with a rack of newspapers and magazines (mainly Greek-language, but including the Daily Mail). The self-service snack area had a selection of cheeses, biscuits, pastries and Moevenpick ice-cream tubs, as well as a Nespresso machine and soft and alcoholic drinks. Other features include a smoking area, relaxation room with massage chairs, and toilets (but no showers). Business class passengers travelling from Stansted can make use of a fairly modest Servisair lounge.
BOARDING The flight boarded from Gate 13, near the lounge, and I was offered orange juice and a newspaper before we took off.
THE FLIGHT This A321-200 was configured 3-3, with middle seats blocked off in business class with a large seat-top table. Business class seating extends back to row 8, so if there are fewer bookings for this cabin, some economy passengers can benefit from a bit of extra space. Seat width is 53cm (21 inches), with the pitch at 84cm (33 inches) and recline at 7.5cm (three inches). Aegean is gradually taking delivery of 27 Airbus aircraft to replace its Boeing 737 fleet, and this plane felt smart and spotlessly clean, with dark blue leather seat upholstery. I was in seat 1C, with around a third of the business class seats taken – economy class seemed fairly busy.
I was advised I could have breakfast at my leisure during the four-hour flight, which when ordered consisted of a yoghurt, fruit bowl, crackers and cheese, two rolls, and a hot sausage and egg breakfast. I watched the latest Indiana Jones film on the communal screen, which finished as we were passing over Paris.
ARRIVAL We landed on time just after 0930, and were quickly disembarked. With hand luggage only I was able to catch the 1000 Stansted Express service back into London (£24 for an Express Class open return to Liverpool St station when bought online).
VERDICT I was impressed with the newness of the aircraft and its seating, particularly the large table covering the centre seat in business class. Other direct options between London and Athens include Easyjet from Luton and Gatwick, and BA and Olympic from Heathrow.
CONFIGURATION Economy is 3-3, with middle seats blocked off in business class.
SEAT PITCH 84cm/33in.
SEAT WIDTH 53cm/21in.
PRICE Return fares for a midweek journey in November started from €173 for economy and €652 for business class.