Date: 22 July 2011
From: London Heathrow
Airline: Aegean Airlines
Aircraft: A 321
Class: Business Class
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
At around 09h00 in the morning I check out of the Sofitel and make my way across to Terminal 5 to catch the Heathrow Express to Terminal 1, from where my flight will be leaving at 11h00. Aegean Airlines allows passengers to check in online 48 hours before departure, so I already checked in the previous day before leaving Zurich.
The train journey itself is short, but from Heathrow Central it’s a trek of another ten minutes to Terminal 1 departures.
In Terminal 1 I have two lounges to pick from: the Star Alliance lounge or the BMI lounge. The Star Alliance lounge is rather gloomy, boring and offers no views at all. The BMI lounge in contrast, is spacious, has a good selection of food and drinks and, more importantly, offers some fantastic views of the ramp and runway 9L/27R. As luck would have it, runway 9L is in use for landings during my visit.
The gate area is rather crowded when I arrive, it looks like it’s going to be a full flight today. Boarding starts on time. But once everybody is seated, the captain makes an announcement to welcome us all aboard and inform us that we haven’t got a slot for departure until one hour after our scheduled departure time, despite the fact that we’re ready to leave on time. Apparently no reason is given for the delay by atc.
My first impression of Aegean is somewhat mixed. Despite the fact that the aircraft looks rather new, the carpets and the curtains are in a sad and shabby state. The red colour on the curtains is faded in some places and covered in grease stains in others.
The cabin crew come through the cabin offering pre departure drinks, with a choice of either still water or orange juice. I chose the latter and it tastes more like orange squash and not at all like juice. Furthermore, the pre departure drinks are served in plastic ‘glasses’, which is rather cheap in Business Class. On a positive note, the cabin crew are very friendly and competent. Moreover, it is quite apparent that Aegean Airlines selects its female cabin crew based on their good looks and their ability to fit into – or rather to fill – the rather tight, body-hugging dress they have as a uniform.
After about an hour of sitting around and wondering how on earth anyone can possibly fit into one of those charmingly tight looking little blue uniforms, we push back. No need to get overly excited at this point though, we’re number 28 in the queue for departure from runway 09R.
The menu for the flight
- Rocket and spinach leaf with chic peas, anthotiro cheese and gruyere rusks
- Hot Entrée choice of Chicken in a barley & herb crust, oven potatoes ad grilled vegetables (my choice)
Veal strips with capers, mushrooms and Cretan ‘Striftoudi’ pasta with dry ‘Mizithra’ cheese
- Cheese Anthotiro cheese ‘Dodoni’ and Graviera ‘Naxou’ with dried fruits
- Dessert Traditional Greek desserts
For sure the quantity of the meal is more than sufficient, in fact both the salad and the hot meal are huge. The quality is okay I guess, but not as good as on Swiss. In particular, I find the hot meal a bit too oily. It gives you heartburn just from looking at it.
Once the meal is over, the crew clears everything away. The menu explicitly states that they have Cappuccino available, which I decide to try more out of curiosity than anything else. Very often when there is Cappuccino available on a plane it’s one of those horrible instant concoctions you just add water to. In this case though, I am very pleasantly surprised to find that the Cappuccino is made with coffee and real warmed milk. So well done Aegean for that!
At this point I start to wonder what’s happened to dessert, seeing as the crew have already removed the trays. And then it comes: this is without a doubt the best and most spectacular part of the meal. See for yourself: strawberries with mint and Greek sweet pastries made with nuts.
It is outstanding, delicious and, like the rest of the meal, way too large!
The rest of the flight passes quickly.
Upon arrival in Athens we park at a remote stand. In such cases Aegean provides a separate bus for Business Class passengers. On arrival we have a delay of more than one hour. There is a family with a very tight connection to Mykonos, so I refrain from taking any pictures so as not to keep them and the bus waiting.
At a glance the Aegean Airlines product is sound and most of their flight attendants look quite as though they could be models. However, at a closer inspection there are a few flaws: the cabin is dirty and the food is just very oily and not much else. The dessert however, is divine! Would I fly them again Yes, I think I would.
As was to be expected, Athens is hot, very hot. I don’t really know what it is about this city: it’s not exactly pretty and it sprawls on seemingly for ever. But still I like it and always look forward to returning. I leave you with some impressions of the Greek capital.