In this review, we will take an Aegean Airlines flight from Bucharest to Athens in business class on an Airbus A320-200.
Flying to Athens
There are multiple airlines which fly the Bucharest to Athens route. Greece’s Aegean Airlines, Romania’s TAROM and Michael O’Leary’s Ryanair all operate daily flights on this short intra-European route, which means that flight prices are often low.
As I had book a great Saudia business class deal from Athens, I had to make my way to the Greek capital from my home base of Bucharest. Both the Aegean and Ryanair flight were priced around 30 EUR and departed within 30 minutes of each other, allowing me three hours to make the Saudia flight to Jeddah.
Choosing Aegean over Ryanair was a no-brainer as not only does the airline have a substantially better on-board product, it is also far more reliable. As I would not be protected in case of a flight delay or cancellation with the Bucharest to Athens ticket booked separately from my Saudia ticket, I knew that Aegean would be the safest bet. I regularly fly the Bucharest-Athens route on Aegean and always thought the airline runs a smooth operation with mostly on-time flights.
Upgrade to business class
A week or so before departure I decided to participate in the Aegean Airline upgrade challenge and put in a 60 EUR bid, which was the minimum amount to participate. Three days before departure I received an email that Aegean accepted the upgrade offer. Given that I only paid 35 EUR for my economy class ticket, a total of 95 EUR for a seat in business class is not bad at all.
Bucharest (OTP) to Athens (ATH) on Aegean Airlines
Flight A3 961 – Airbus A320-200 – Business class, seat 1A
Departure: 10.40am – Arrival: 12.15pm
Flight time: 1h35m – Distance: 471 miles
Costs: 35 EUR for the economy class ticket, 60 EUR for the upgrade to business class
Even though I arrived relatively late at the airport I still managed to visit the TAROM business class lounge at the airport for about 10 minutes and drink a coffee. The lounge is nothing spectacular, so in case you miss out of it – you don’t miss much.
Boarding began exactly on time, with business class passengers and Star Alliance gold members being called forward for priority boarding. There were a handful of Aegean Miles+Bonus gold members on today’s flight based on the baggage tags they had attached on their carry-on bags, but it turned out they were all seated in economy class. In the end, I was the sole passenger in the small business class cabin of two rows.
Business class seats
Like most other European airlines, Aegean uses normal economy class seats for its business class passengers. The sole difference with economy is that the middle seat is blocked with a tray table. So while the seat itself is not more comfortable than those flying economy, at least you have some more privacy and shoulder room.
A movable divider and curtain separates the business cabin from economy class. The divider can be moved as many rows back and forward as the airline likes given that the seats are the same. This way, they can adjust the business class cabin size based on demand. It is not uncommon on business-heavy routes such as Athens to London Heathrow for business class to stretch eight rows deep.
The seat itself was by the way fairly comfortable and certainly not bad for a short intra-European hop. Legroom in the bulkhead seats of row 1 was decent too. Do note that there are no personal in-flight entertainment screens, and no plug sockets or USB ports, although there are overhead screens playing the route map and some promotional videos of Greece’s magnificent sights. There is also no WiFi available on the planes of Aegean Airlines.
I was warmly welcomed on board of the flight by one of the stewardesses and even helped with stowing my luggage in the overhead bin. After I sat down, on of the two flight attendants in the forward cabin inquired whether I wanted a newspaper. I was given the New York Times, which in Greece is distributed exclusively with the English edition of Greek paper Kathimerini.
Moments later the flight attendant also came by with a tray on which a glass each of water, sparkling wine and orange juice was placed. I opted for the sparkling wine as pre-departure beverage. Aegean serves solely Greek wines on board of its flight. The reds and whites on the menu change frequently as different Greek winemakers are featured. These underrated and relatively unknown wines by international standards can often be amazing, although I wasn’t a too big of a fan of the Amalia sparkling wine served by Aegean.
Shortly before departure, a flight attendant also distributed some small candies to passengers in both the business and economy cabin.
Food and drinks menu
Before departure, a neat-looking business class food and drinks menu was handed out. The menu features selected Greek wineries and winemakers as well as prominent chefs – which are rotated on regular basis. It is well worth sampling some of the Greek wines offered on Aegean flights.
There are always at least two reds and two whites featured on each flight. Another interesting aspect of Aegean Airlines is that the company offers proper espresso, cappuccino and Greek coffee in business class.
The 10.40am departure meant that my flight was a breakfast flight. Unfortunately, Aegean is no exc eption to the rule that airline breakfasts are generally unmemorable on short flights, even in business class. From my experience the food is substantially better on lunch and dinner flights. On this flight, the choice was between an oven baked omelet with sauteed asparagus and grilled Haloumi cheese or cheese bread with scrambled eggs.
You can pre-select your meal online in advance if you want to be ensured of your choice of meal, as otherwise there is always the slight risk that they might have run out of your preferred choice on a full flight. Instead of pre-selecting one of these two options I opted for a seafood meal, which is one of the two special meal choices besides a vegan/vegetarian meal.
We departed spot on time from Bucharest. There were some decent views over Otopeni Airport upon takeoff, although soon after we penetrated the cloud cover and visibility became zero. When the fasten seatbelt sign went off, one of the flight attendants immediately closed the curtain separating the business class cabin from economy class.
Some five minutes later when we crossed into Bulgarian airspace meal service started with one of the crew members inquiring what I wanted to drink with my meal. I opted for a glass of white wine to accompany my seafood breakfast – in fact, I actually ordered both of the white wines so I could taste and compare them. After all, seafood is best matched with a glass of white and it is afternoon at least somewhere in the world 😉
About five minutes late the flight attendant returned with my meal, which turned out to be a prawn omelette. The meal was presented on a tray and looked quite nice. It also contained a large fruit selection, small salt and pepper shakers, a protein bar, a cup of butter and a cloth napkin in which the cutlery was folded.
The flight attendant also passed by with a bread basket, from which I selected a small bun.
Although I find airline breakfasts mostly forgettable even in business class, this meal was actually quite decent. The omelette contained three big prawns inside which were nicely cooked. On the side were some hash browns as well as some broccoli. The fruits which came as dessert were fresh and tasted excellent. Although nothing spectacular, I thought it was a solid meal for a short intra-European hop.
The two white wines which I ordered to accompany my meal were brought to my seat one-by-one. You can see that the flight attendants of Aegean Airlines are properly trained as they first show you the bottle, then pour in your glass at your seat. This is far more classy and preferable than them preparing the drinks in the galley out of your sight.
Unfortunately the first wine, the Savatiano, was stored too cold to properly taste it. The bottle was covered in ice crystals and it wasn’t much better in the glass. While that is of course better than getting served a white wine at room temperature, it does kill off all the soft flavours. The Malagousia (one of my favourite white wine varieties) was however chilled at the right temperature and tasted excellent.
One of the great aspects of Aegean’s business class product is its coffee menu. As one of the few European airlines, Aegean Airlines offers proper espresso, cappuccino and even Greek coffee on board. After the meal, I ordered an espresso, which was strong and rich in taste – as it should be.
I also asked for a glass of Chios Mastiha liqueur as a digestif, which was promptly brought with two small chocolates. For those who do not know it, Mastiha is a resin obtained from the mastic tree. These trees are only found on the Greek island of Chios and on Turkey’s Çeşme Peninsula at the other side of the sea from Chios. It has a sweet pine and cedar taste and is absolutely delicious. If you ever visit Chios or Çeşme, be sure to also try mastiha ice cream, mastiha chewing gum and all other foods in which the resin is used.
Wonderful Greek views
One of the best things about flying to Greece is to see the country’s gorgeous coastline from above. I adore Greece. It is by far my favourite travel destination in the world and I even called the country home for a while in the past. Seeing the azure blue sea, the reflection of the sunshine in the waves, the mountains, the towns – it all brings back fond memories.
Arriving at Athens Airport
Views on the slow and gradual approach to Athens International Airport continued to be amazing. We finally touched down on the runway on the dot. After a short time taxiing around the airport, the pilots parked the Airbus A320 at a remote stand on the tarmac.
Athens ground services
Aegean Airlines’ ground service at Athens Airport is superb. If you are unlucky enough to arrive at a remote stand instead of a proper jetbridge gate you should not despair. Business class passengers have their own dedicated airport bus which brings them immediately to the terminal building before economy class passengers are even allowed to disembark. Within 10 to 15 minutes after we touched down on the runway, I already found myself in the arrivals hall of Athens Airport as there was no queue at all for passport control for EU passengers.
Having flown Aegean Airlines multiple times in both classes, I can conclude that the airline certainly belongs to the upper category of European airlines. Highlights of flying Aegean Airlines are the nice selection of Greek wines, proper barista coffee and good quality meals – even though this breakfast flight might not be the best to prove it. The airline is also among the most reliable in Europe. Aegean certainly runs a smooth operation from its Athens hub.
Of course, the biggest negative of Aegean’s business class is that the seat is nothing to write home about. Like most European airlines, Aegean has the exact same seats in business class as in economy class, with the sole difference that the middle seat remains guaranteed empty. That said, the Aegean flight attendants try to do everything to make the business class experience the best you can possible get in such a seat.
I can certainly recommend flying Aegean Airlines and will be happy to do so again on my future flights with them.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Lazing in Laos and Gallivanting a Wee Bit Around Asia‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Aegean Airlines Airbus A320 business class Bucharest to Athens (current chapter)
2. Review: Goldair Handling Lounge (Non-Schengen) Athens Airport
3. Review: Saudia Business Class Athens to Jeddah (Airbus A320)
4. Review: Saudia Alfursan Lounge Jeddah Airport South Terminal