In this review we will check out the Goldair Handling Business Class Lounge at Hall A of Athens International Airport where all flights to non-Schengen countries depart.
Getting to the airport
I arrived at Athens Airport on an Aegean Airlines flight from Bucharest. As I had already checked in online for my onward flight on Saudia, I could theoretically head straight to the gate area and to the lounge. But as I wanted to get a proper boarding pass – and because the transit desk could not print them for Saudia – I decided to quickly get landside again. As I was arriving from a non-Schengen country (Romania) and Greece is inside the Schengen Area, it meant having to clear passport control. Fortunately, there were no queues for the e-gates and I was through within a minute.
The departure hall of Athens Airport is one floor up from the arrivals hall. The Saudia check-in desks open three hours before departure. As the flight from Athens to Jeddah is operated by an Airbus A320-200 with only 110 seats (20 in business class, 90 in economy) I don’t think that at any moment it gets really busy, especially because there were three check-in desks in total for the Saudia flight.
As a business class passenger (and holding SkyTeam Elite Plus frequent flyer status), I could use the Sky Priority check-in desk. Within a minute I had a proper paper boarding pass issued.
Security and passport control
Athens Airport basically consists out of a single terminal. After check-in you either head left to Hall B (for departures within the Schengen area – including domestic Greek flights) or to the right into Hall A (for departures out of the Schengen area).
Although the queues on arrival can be at times long (especially for those who do not hold an EU passport) it is an entirely different matter to get airside again upon departure. There were no queues for the e-gates for EU passport holders when I headed back to the gate area. As I fly in and out of Athens a lot – I can say that this pretty much is the case no matter which time of the day you are flying. Only in high season can waits be a bit longer.
After passport control the security check was equally fast. There is a dedicated priority line for business class passengers and frequent flyers to the far left – which might easily be missed if you do not pay attention. Note that the crew/diplomat line on the far right is not a priority line for passengers and you will be refused here.
Athens Airport Hall A
After passport control and security you are led into a retail area which in the end feeds into the departure gates. There are numerous shops, as well as a couple of cafes and restaurants in this area. Although Athens Airport is fairly modern and overall is a convenient place to connect or depart, it is not an airport for which I would come early if you do not have lounge access.
Especially in high season the gate area and the few seats at the cafes can be enormously crowded. As the airport is not big at all compared to major European hubs such as Frankfurt or Paris, it will probably a long wait.
There are however a few lounges in Hall A of Athens Airport. These are the Aegean Airlines Lounge, Swissport Executive Lounge, Skyserv Handling Services (named the ‘Aristotelis Onasis Lounge’) and the Goldair Handling Lounge. Note that Aegean, Skyserv (‘Melina Mercouri Lounge’) and Goldair Handling also have lounges in Hall B for Schengen flights.
Goldair Handling Lounge
The Goldair lounge is used by Aeroflot, Alitalia, American Airlines, Ellinair, Emirates, Saudia, TAROM and Turkish Airlines for its business class passengers and frequent flyers. You can also gain access with Priority Pass, Dragonpass and Loungebuddy – but lounge pass holders should note that at busy times you might be refused entry if the lounge is at or near its capacity.
Upon showing my Saudia business class boarding card I was swiftly welcomed into the lounge, which was nearly empty at this time of the day in the early afternoon.
Goldair Lounge seating
The Goldair Handling Lounge is well-arranged and easy to navigate it being a relatively small lounge. There are some sofas near the windows to the right and in the middle of the lounge, some couches in the front area near a TV playing CNN, some dining tables in the middle area and a large worktop table to the back. All the lounge seating is separated from the buffet area on the left by a low divider wall running through the lounge. The two lounge toilets can be found in the back.
My preferred seats are the comfortable sofas next to the windows as you have some daylight here. Unfortunately, there are no views to speak of as you are just looking over some airport offices. Wherever you decide to seat, you will find for sure a socket close to your seat. The WiFi network was fast and reliable, making the lounge a good place to get some work done if needed.
Goldair Lounge buffet
When it comes to food and drinks, the Goldair Lounge is probably the best lounge of entire Athens Airport. There are always a few hot dishes available, as well as some snacks and desserts. The coffee is of good quality, there are plenty of soft drinks, bottled beer and some eight wines available, including sparkling wine.
There is also a good selection of stronger alcoholic beverages. Besides some mid-shelf gin, rum and whisky brands you can also find Greek favourites such as mastiha liqueur. Whether you are looking for a decent meal or a healthy salad before flying out in economy class to your destination, or want to have a coffee or glass of wine, the Goldair Handling Lounge does certainly not disappoint.
The only real downside of the lounge is that there are no showers available, although this is the case in every single one of the Athens business lounges. If you are in desperate need for a shower your only choice at Athens Airport is to head towards the only hotel at the airport: the Sofitel Athens Airport.
I had a quick snack at the lounge of rice and meatballs, which was tasty. The meatballs were well seasoned in some kind of cinnamon sauce. As I would soon be flying on Saudia – a dry airline – I also had one or two glasses of wine before going alcohol-free for the next couple of hours.
A nice feature of the Goldair Handing Lounge is that boarding announcements are made by the lounge employees, who walk through the entire room and inquire if some of the persons are on the announced flight. As I wanted to be on board of my Saudi flight among the first in order to snap some good pictures, I however left the lounge already a bit before the announced boarding time.
Among all the Athens lounges (in both the Schengen and non-Schengen area), the Goldair Handling Lounge in Hall A is one the best you can find. With good seating options, a solid buffet and a big variety of drinks, it certainly is a solid lounge in which you will not be disappointed to spend some time in.
As the other lounges in the non-Schengen area of Hall A are a bit dire, I would even recommend lounge pass holders such as those having a Priority Pass to head straight to the Goldair Handling Lounge. When compared to other non-schengen lounges such as small and usually crowded Aegean Airlines lounge, the Goldair Lounge is an oasis of quietness and beats the others as well when it comes to food and beverage options.
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. Review: Aegean Airlines Business Class Bucharest to Athens (Airbus A320)
2. Review: Goldair Handling Lounge (Non-Schengen) Athens Airport (current chapter)
3. Review: Saudia Business Class Athens to Jeddah (Airbus A320)
4. Review: Saudia Alfursan Lounge Jeddah Airport South Terminal