Aegean Airlines’ Impressive Economy Service

It’s rare that economy is anything to get excited about, though I do think airlines that try to differentiate their experience deserve some credit.

In the US I’d argue that service in economy is getting better rather than worse at the moment (I’m referring to the actual service, rather than legroom). For many years the “big three” US carriers served virtually nothing in economy due to cost cutting. They’ve very slowly been adding back amenities, starting with bringing back (very basic) snacks, like pretzels and cookies. Then they’ve even brought back free meals on select transcontinental routes, and free alcohol in extra legroom economy.

I’d argue that in Europe service in economy is getting worse rather than better at the moment, largely due to competition from ultra low cost carriers. Airlines like British Airways have moved to a buy on board model for food and drinks in shorthaul economy, and other airlines, like Swiss, are trialing it.

While I respect airlines’ rights to offer whatever service they want in economy, I think that’s all the more reason to give credit to those airlines that are going above and beyond to offer a superior product.

Athens-based Aegean Airlines operates a shorthaul route network, and they offer free hot meals and drinks (including alcohol) on all international flights. I had the chance to fly them yesterday from Athens to Milan on a cheap paid ticket.

We paid an extra 12.50EUR per person to select an aisle and window seat in the exit row, which paid off. Not only did we have extra legroom, but we had an empty seat between us (there were only a few empty seats on the plane). This was the second flight where we had such luck, because the same happened on EasyJet.

Aegean still seems to try with their service. Before takeoff the crew came around with candy, which reminded me a bit of Swiss, and how they hand out chocolate on every flight.

But the real surprise to me was that there was a hot meal in economy on this two hour flight.

Okay, “meal” might be a bit of a stretch, but for breakfast they served greek yogurt with honey, and some sort of cheese pastry thing.

The cheese pastry basically tasted like cardboard, but boy, was it oddly satisfying.

There were also free alcoholic drinks, though I decided to save any unnecessary drinking for my subsequent flight in Emirates first class. 😉

It was also cool to fly with Aegean since I’ve long loved their frequent flyer program. They have generous mileage earning rates, and earning Star Alliance Gold status with them is easy. I’ve earned it in the past, though let it lapse, so go figure the one time I actually flew Aegean was when I didn’t have status with them.

Has anyone else flown Aegean, and if so, what was your experience like?

Comments

  1. Generous mileage earning on *A isn’t so true anymore.

    Gold does get 4 annual business upgrade coupons which is worth a mention.

  2. Who could eat that. I guess as a healthy eater I am always shocked what people will put in their bodies. To each his or her own.

  3. That cheese pastry is called tiropita. It’s in the same family as spanakopita and burek and is a near-staple of Greek, Balkan, and Turkish cuisine. It’s always best fresh out of the oven and should never be served on an airplane 🙂

  4. Their food is pretty impressive for economy for sure. They even serve something to eat on their 40 minute flights! Crew is always pleasant and they just redid their lounges to bring them more up to date. I fly them all the time and really like the experience. Glad you got a chance to try them out! They have been the best regional European airline for the last several years.

  5. love aegean. I fly them alot because you can make weird eu-ath-eu routings for like 50€. best one i ever flew was ams-her-cdg for 18€! in summer! Got to get segments anyway, and i love being on a plane and i love being in greece.

    they do serve fairly acceptable food, but the candy is better. if its not actualy meal time i pick the fruit platter and have gyros in athens though.

    next flights in september. doing lis-ath-cph and dub-ath-lil.

  6. Is it possible to book a cash rate on any of the US based airlines for Aegean? Want to try and use my $100 Amex airline credit

  7. TK does the same (minus the candy), even on short domestic flights. It’s good to see a few hold outs.

  8. I actually had a pretty bad experience on Aegean on a flight from MUC to SKG a few weeks ago. I had pre-paid for a window seat just behind the emergency exit. I was one of the later people to board and when I got to my seat there was someone in it. I showed them my boarding pass and they said ‘well, I’m travelling with this person next to me’. So I figured I’d get it sorted with the Air hostess. She was pleasant enough but said ‘well, they are travelling together so I will get you another seat’. So she led me up to the 5th row and pointed at the middle seat. I explained that I had paid for a window seat and she said ‘well sit at the window and if someone comes to sit there ask them to swap’. Of course a lady came and I explained the situation to her (the reason I always book a window is because I’m actually a nervous flyer and I kind of need to watch outside to make sure everything is as it should be). She was very nice and told me it was no problem to swap seats with her. I feel the service of the cabin crew was not great. Then the cabin crew started fighting just before the safety demonstration about something (don’t know what, it was in Greek). And then, as I was looking out the window I was nicely allowed to sit at, the ground crew started to load the luggage, at a speed of about 1 bag per 15 seconds (we were delayed by 2.5hrs already) and literally firing the bags onto the conveyer.

    So, I while the flight itself was pleasant, I did not feel that the crew or service overall were very professional. A huge contrast for me compared with Lufthansa and Swiss. I wouldn’t particularly want to fly with them again.

  9. I flew a few sectors ATH-CFU last year, which, as the island’s regular charter airlines stop flying there in the summer, is a lifeline. I then flew CFU-ATH-CDG. Snack on the first bit then a really delicious “Greek” hot meal on the ATH-CDG sector with HOT bread rolls. Very nice, delicious plus the cabin crew were so nice, friendly and elegant. I would say they are a great little airline.

  10. Sometimes on those ultra cheap European connections it’s possible to get a 24 hour stop in Athens ( I guess most people wouldn’t want it but it appeals to me). So for €50 or 100, it’s pretty good value. Even the ATH lounge is not bad.

  11. I fly them like 4 times a year and every time I love it. Everyone I’ve spoken to who’s flown them said the exact same thing. No wonder they’re the best European airline 9 years in a row.

  12. The free meal in economy is nothing to get super excited about especially for Asian carriers. Most of the carriers in Asia will offer something nice on a short flight. Nothing offered on BA from Gatwick to Edinburgh and nothing offered on KLM from Edinburgh to Amsterdam. Still quite horrible in America unless on a delta operated flight. By the way, I remember when China Airlines would fly the Taipei and Kaohsiung route and you did get hot red bean soup with limited beverage service.

  13. I flew them in 2015, Chania- Athens – Rome, and I was extremely impressed. I plan to visit Greece again sometime in the next several months, hopefully flying them once more.

  14. FAs on Aegean are also often gorgeous and have great uniforms. One of the best airlines to fly in Economy. Fares are often a steal.

  15. they are a great airline – the “service” is wonderful!! they even smile – best airline in Europe by far

  16. Praising them for offering feel meals whilst disparaging the free meal whilst eating the free meal nonetheless.

  17. @Stanley KLM usually offers complimentary food and drinks (including alcoholic drinks) on short haul flights, including EDI-AMS. They do so on LCY-AMS, LHR-AMS and CDG-AMS, so EDI-AMS would definitely warrant service. If they didn’t, it may be worth reaching out to their customer service to see what happened there.

    Mistakes happen and if for some reason they didn’t get any supply that may be outside of their control. You pay a premium for service though and if they can’t offer it for some reason it would only be reasonable for them to announce it during the flight.

  18. I have flown 2-4 flights a year for the last 4 years with Aegean and last year they started in competition with EasyJet to my home airport EDI on the direct ATH route. As stated Aegean are full service in economy, but their prices regularly beat EasyJet hands down too. I’m glad you gave them a go Ben.

  19. Yes, Aegean in Economy is good, but for A3 Golds, they’ve made the experience worse. This year, they’ve started to charge for “good” seat assignments. Golds have to pay full price for Exit rows and get a measly 50% off for regular legroom seats in the front. It’s a ridiculous way to nickel and dime people.

    @Chris M, I hope you escalated, complained, and got a refund.

  20. Aye. Aegean does it well, and while I like a good tiropita (“cheese pie”), I’d probly eat it.
    The previous comment that “the FAs are gorgeous” reminded me of a Neapolitan colleague who observed that his last Olympic flight featured FAs with facial hair beyond the limits for most airlines. On a flight shortly thereafter, I observed the same phenomenon with an all female cabin crew.

    Since then, what’s left of Olympic has been subsumed into Aegean. So I would be more politically aware and say that they appear to enforce cabin crew grooming standards to an impressive level.
    I like the airline too: they treat their pax like humans.

  21. @Lucky – I’d say describing food as “tasting like cardboard” is pretty disparaging! Though if you find cardboard tasty for some weird reason, I guess that’s a compliment…

  22. I use Aegean every few months, but only for domestic Greek travel. A cup of cold water was all I was offered on my last flight with them – apart from a sweet prior to take-off, that is. That said, the temperature was around 40 degrees outside so the cool water was very welcome.

    I always find the aircraft clean and the crew highly professional.

    Only once have I used business class – when no other seat was left of the plane and I needed to travel urgently – and a light cold meal was served along with the best coffee I have ever tasted in the air.

  23. Chris M – the crew were probably not fighting but simply speaking loudly and animately. It’s a Greek thing.

  24. Just flew Aegean today on a 30 minute flight from ATH-JMK. This flight is all economy and basically once you get up you start your decent. In that short flight they handed out candy and some cookies. I commmented to my partner that on a flight that short in the US the FAs probably wouldn’t even get out of their seats. The FAs were all smiles we will be back on a flight from HER-ATH next week. We also flew them last time we were in Greece.

  25. Flew A3 in June 2014 DME-ATH-FRA and picked up US FRA-CLT. (Back when US was Star Alliance they had an interline agreement and kept it all the way up to buying AA; very nice). Was *G on A3 and bumped Biz/1st. Had the entire Biz cabin going to ATH and almost all going to FRA. One of my best flights home.

  26. Flew Aegean a few years ago from Athens various Greek islands, and had a great experience. The crew were very friendly and we were served water and snacks. During the time of our visit, Greece was undergoing general strikes, so the airport was closed. Aegean was super accommodating about re-booking our flights with no fees and no fuss.

  27. You should try flying Blue-Air (the Romanian, not the Greek airline). It’s a genuine Low-Cost Airline, which offers free drinks, a light meal, arrival candy and free airport check-ins.

  28. Sir Boonbuckle – that depends which fare you purchase. If you buy a “Go Light” ticket (economy cabin) it’s hand luggage only or pay extra per item of checked in luggage. If you buy a “Flex” ticket, you’re still in the economy cabin but one item of checked in luggage is included. If I remember rightly, a business class ticket will get you two items of checked in luggage.

    You’ve reminded me of my only negative experience with Aegean. I decided, very late at night, to pay for check in luggage online for my flight the next morning. (I had a Go Light ticket and had not been intending to carry much.) The internet connection was lost before I could confirm my purchase so I had to cough up when I checked in at Athens airport – there was no record of my attempt to pay online. Weeks later, my Amex bill showed that the price of the extra bag had been charged to my account. Neither Amex nor Aegean would refund the payment. So I paid 36 Euros for an extra bag when it should have been 18. I sulked with Aegean (and Amex) for a long time about that!

  29. I live in Cyprus and fly Aegean to Athens and London from Larnaca . Always good service , reasonable meals and wine and good prices if you book a few weeks in advance . Last minute bookings can be expensive and prices rise in summer as Cyprus is a holiday destination.
    It is apparently owned by a Greek entrepreneur .
    They took over Olympic Airways a few years ago and have (almost ) turned it around from impending bankruptcy

  30. I flew Aegean on the extremely short Mykonos – Athens route but could not have been more impressed. The attendants were impressively professional and effusively apologised that refreshments could not be distributed during the 35 minute flight due to poor weather conditions – but at the conclusion of the flight a snack was handed to each passenger with a sincere apology and a sincere greeting. Many airlines including so-called First Class providers should take note.

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