15 April 2016

2015-11 Thessaloniki

Heathrow - Thessaloniki via Athens and vv.

Outward in Business, return in Economy, thanks to some upgrade coupons from the Aegean frequent flyer program Miles and Bonus

Map courtesy of www.gcmap.com

A video of the first flight of the trip is available here: https://youtu.be/PZMf1YwdQkE

I started this trip on the Friday evening, after the children had gone to bed, by taking the train to London, and then on to Croydon, where I stayed in the Hampton by Hilton, using points. This was the cheapest points redemption for a hotel in London on this evening, but it did mean a longish journey to Heathrow the following morning. I had found out that the longest regular London bus route, X26, serves Croydon to Heathrow, so I took it the full length of its journey. On arriving at T2, I met with Markku, who was passing through Heathrow, for a brief chat before I passed security.

Date: 14/11/15
Flight: A3601
Route: LHR-ATH
Aircraft: SX-DGQ
Seat: 1A

Not very photo-friendly windows


Retail zone in T2

There were a number of lounges in T2 that I could use, being Star Gold, and having a Business Class ticket, but time was short so I used the nearest, the Lufthansa lounge.

Snack before the flight

View from the lounge

It was soon time to head towards the gate, so I polished off my chicken and rice, cake and tea and made my way out of the lounge.

Another FIDS

Next-door gate

Aegean tail

Boarding started, and there seemed to be a bit of a scrum in the priority queue - all those Gold members from back when Gold was available for a single Economy flight!

By now it had started to rain

Making my way down the bridge

Legroom shot. 1A bulkhead still had good space.

Icelandic neighbour again

Safety card

Pre-departure champagne

Menu and a sweet

There followed pushback, and a 15 minute wait in the queue for takeoff on 27R, through the rain (see the Youtube video linked at the top of this report).

Climbing through the clouds


First up, there was a bar service, from which I chose a G&T. Looking out of the window, I noticed another aircraft not far away, but by the time I got my camera out it was almost too late.

Swiss A340


After the drinks run, the meal was brought out in courses.


More mountains

More Alps

Main course of veal

End of the Alps

Dessert selection and cup of tea

Starting to get dark

By the time we approached Athens, it was getting dark, and we circled the city being able to spot most the the city centre, and Pireaus port, before landing from the south.


We taxiied to a remote stand, and disembarked.

Final view of the aircraft

Looking back

Ground services were somewhat chaotic to say the least. Connecting passengers were moved to one side, still on the apron, and all together taken onto the bus that was also for Business Class passengers. A staff member stayed with the group, guiding us through passport control, and back upstairs to the departures area. To be honest, everything was clearly signed, and I'd probably have been able to find my way to the next flight much quicker than had I been staying with the group being led. Domestic and Schengen departures had security at the gate, with two queues, one for Business and Star Gold, the other for everyone else. I could use the Priority queue, so quickly went through, and boarded straight away, onto my seat 1A again.

Date: 14/11/15
Flight: A3126
Route: ATH=SKG
Aircraft: SX-DVO
Seat: 1A

1A again

Gate neighbour

Pushback and takeoff were smooth enough, though it was dark by now so I couldn't see much. For such a short flight, there was an impressive service, in J at least. A salad tray was distributed, with a choice of bar drinks - I took lemonade.

Salad meal of chicken and smoked salmon

Barely had the drinks been given out that we started descent and things were collected. Landing was straight in, with a short taxi to the apron. Two busses pulled up, and the crew prevented economy passengers from boarding the first, meaning the 8 of us had a full bus to ourselves - which drive about 30m to the terminal building. I had no baggage so was out to arrivals in seconds, and went outside to find the bus stop for busses into the city. One soon arrived, and I was heading for the city centre, where my hotel was, the Holiday Inn, which I'd booked with IHG points. I got off the bus and walked the rest of the way to the hotel, past the White Tower and the waterfront.

First view of the White Tower

The White Tower, lit up in the French Tricolore in solidarity, after the terrorist attacks the day before

White Tower again


Aristotelous Square

Looking back down the waterfront, with bars and restaurants almost the whole length.

Looking towards the port

Hotel room

Another view

My room rate didn't include breakfast, so the following morning I packed up and checked out, and headed back to the airport for breakfast in the lounge.

View from the hotel room

The railway station, just along from the hotel. My only previous visit to Thessaloniki was a trip with my now wife, when we changed trains here en route from Istanbul to Athens

After getting back to the airport, I got my boarding passes, cleared security and entered the lounge. There was a selection of pastries, of which I had a few for breakfast, along with some orange juice and tea. I was only travelling in Economy on the way back, but had lounge access thanks to my Gold card. When boarding was called, a door was opened in the lounge directly into the first bus to the aircraft. About 2/3 of the passengers from the lounge were in Economy, and we all boarded before the aircraft. I was in seat 3A, the first row of economy behind the curtain.

Date: 15/11/15
Flight: A3111
Route: SKG-ATH
Aircraft: SX-DGQ
Seat: 3A

Legroom in 3A

Boarding from the stairs

Once everyone was on board, the engines started and we moved forward - no need to pushback thanks to the mid-apron parking position. We taxiied to the end of the runway, and took off northwards, before looping round to the south towards Athens. Shortly afterwards the service started, being such a short flight there was no choice. 

Orange juice and crackers

Coastal clouds

Mount Olympus

Start of the Athens metropolitan area

Athens city

More Athens

Athens' old airport

On approach

On stand

The aircraft after disembarking

Date: 15/11/15
Flight: A3602
Route: ATH-LHR
Aircraft: SX-DGQ
Seat: 12F

I had a short time between flights, so I picked up some edible goodies for the family, before heading briefly to the lounge. I only stayed about 10 minutes, eating a quick sandwich and grabbing a carton of juice, before heading back to the gate. The gate was at the end closest to the Schengen zone flights, and it turned out that the aircraft was the same as the one I'd just disembarked from. I could use the priority queue, and took my place just forward of the wing.


Window view

I don't remember much about the flight, other than everything was smooth. A normal, powerful takeoff followed by mountainous scenery. A full hot meal was served - there was no choice.


Somewhere over Croatia the clouds started, remaining there until landing. 

Descending through the clouds

There was no delay, aside from a single circuit of the holding pattern, and we landed in the dusk. I made my way out, took the tube to Kings Cross, and the train back to Norwich via Cambridge, as there was engineering work on the mainline. Overall, a pleasant experience on Aegean, which I would gladly repeat, but I have little cause to use them in the regular way.