My 9:15am arrival in Athens had me landing at the same time as a Turkish Airways flight from Istanbul, jam-packed with Chinese tour groups, and an El Al flight from Tel Aviv. By walking with purpose, though, I managed to get ahead of most of them on the immigration line and breezed through into the baggage claim. I went on the airport’s free internet while I waited for my bag, which didn’t take very long, and then headed upstairs to the departures area where I re-checked my bag for my Mykonos flight.
There are 9 daily flights from Athens to Mykonos, 8 of which are on either Aegean or its wholly owned subsidiary, former state carrier Olympic. The flight times don’t line up great with the PHL-ATH flight, unfortunately. The first flight after I arrived was at 10:50am, which was too short to book when traveling on separate tickets, so I went with the 1:25pm, operated by Olympic on a turboprop Dash-8. After my 6 hour delay on my last US Airways transatlantic flight, I made sure to buy a “Flex” fare, which drove the cost of the ticket up to a silly amount of 167 Euros, but had no change fee and also included a checked bag. And the ability to change to a later flight is important when booking on separate tickets. (I also did some currency hedging here and smartly bought at the Euro’s lowest point in the spring.)
After checking in, my first stop to kill time was to head to the Germanos electronics store, where I bought a data sim card for 15 Euros, which got you the card plus a 10 euro credit. For 10 euros, I could get a 5 day pass with 4 GB, so pretty easy. The best part? They took my 100 Euro note without batting an eye. They said it would take 2 hours for the card to activate, which was fine since there was plenty of internet in the airport.
From Germanos, I headed to the pre-security Melina Merkouri Lounge, a Priority Pass lounge, and the same lounge I had visited in 2011. Back then it was the Olympic Air lounge – prior to its acquisition by Aegean, but the facility was still the same. There were several seating areas, not a lot of power outlets, and bathrooms without showers. The internet and air conditioning were strong, though, and it felt good to put on a clean shirt. I wasn’t particularly hungry and figured I’d get real lunch before the next flight, but there was a spread of cold cereal, yogurt, cookies and pastries – the only one of which I’d recommend is the apple pie. At around 11, some small sandwiches with indeterminate ingredients were brought out. There was also a self-serve bar and coffee machines.
I settled into a corner with a cappuccino, followed by sparkling water and a Coke Light, putzing around on the internet for a while and then setting up the data sim card.
After a few hours in the lounge, I headed out into the terminal, where I got a salad, before heading through security and downstairs to an area with bus gates. As boarding time came and went, there was no announcement or update, then suddenly a mad rush as the doors were opened and the bus jammed with passengers.
The 72-seater Dash 8 was pretty similar on the inside to my US Airways Express ride to Philadelphia. The passengers were a bit rowdier, though, as lots of people were going to Mykonos to party. There was a Russian girl sitting next to me who didn’t want to gate check her rollaboard, apparently, even though there was no way it would fit in the overhead bin. So she just put it between her legs, kind of under the seat in front of her, for the entire flight. The Olympic crew did not seem to care.
Prior to takeoff, a flight attendant came through the cabin with a basket of individually wrapped fruit gel candies, which was weird. Once airborne, the flight attendants began a drink service, which didn’t get very far before we began our descent. The pilot had noted that it was an extremely windy day in Mykonos, and he was not kidding. It was probably the roughest landing I’ve ever had, such that I actually thought the plane tipped over on landing. There was lots of screaming, but we all survived. Another bus to the small terminal, bag shortly offloaded, and my transfer was awaiting.