Review: Sky Express Athens to Naxos (ATR 42)

In this review, we will take a Sky Express flight from Athens (ATH) to Naxos (JNX) on an ATR 42-500 turboprop.

Sky Express

As I already wrote in the previous chapter, today I would fly with Greek domestic airline Sky Express from Athens to Naxos.

Sky Express is a domestic Greek airline based at Athens Airport and serves dozens of destinations on the islands as well as on mainland Greece. I’ve flown with Sky Express many times before and always enjoyed my flights, appreciating the airline’s general reliability.

One neat little perk of flying with Sky Express is that most passengers get complimentary lounge access when flying out of Athens, Thessaloniki or Heraklion (the only airports to which the airline fly that have business lounges!).

For an all-economy class airline that is quite unique as not many carriers offer this perk to all of their passengers! As far as I know, only Bangkok Airlines (Thailand) and Porter Airlines (Canada) offer lounge access to all of their passengers as well.

Even when you have one of the cheapest promotional tickets which do not come with lounge access included, you can add this to your booking for only five euro.

Bus gate

Although Sky Express nowadays has some brand new Airbus A320s in service, most of their fleet consist out of turboprop planes: the ATR 72-500 and the smaller ATR 42-500. This for the simple reason that the majority of the airports the airline flies have too short runways for narrow-body jet planes such as the Airbus A320 to land.

If you are flying from Athens with a propeller plane, whether it’s on Sky Express or competitor Olympic Air, you have to board through one of the bus gates from the lower floor of the terminal.

With perhaps 90% of the seats of the 48-seat ATR 42-500 sold, we could all easily fit in one bus for the short drive across the tarmac to our plane.

athens airport bus gate
If you are flying on a turboprop plane out of Athens, you have to board using one of the bus gates on the lower floor of the terminal. ©Paliparan
athens airport bus gate
Waiting area at Athens Airport. ©Paliparan
bus gate athens
The bus gate for today’s Sky Express flight to Naxos. ©Paliparan

Athens (ATH) to Naxos (JNX) on Sky Express
Flight GQ400 – ATR 42-500 – Economy class, seat 12A
Departure: 10.05am – Arrival: 10.45am
Flight time: 0h40m – Distance: 98 miles
Costs: 61 EUR

ath jnx
Although the distance is just 98 miles as the crow flies, it takes 40 minutes to fly between Athens and Naxos. ©Great Circle Mapper

Boarding

I always enjoy boarding turboprop flights from remote gates as it is usually much more leisurely than the big shuffle of passengers at the gate when boarding a larger aircraft through a jet bridge.

A factor which definitely helps is that the overhead storage bins of the ATR 42 are small and can basically only fit a rucksack or laptop bag, so there is less of a race to be on board first in order to secure bin space given that any carry-on baggage allowed on board would easily fit under your seat as well.

If you have a large trolley as carry-on bag, you have to gate check it at the boarding gate or aircraft, so carefully take not of the precise rules for cabin luggage when booking your ticket. These are clearly written on the Sky Express website and are partly dependent on the booking class of your ticket.

There are a lot of unfairly negative reviews of Sky Express on the web from stupid passengers who simply never bothered to read the baggage allowance rules and fail to understand that you simply cannot bring a huge suitcase in the cabin of a tiny turboprop plane! Because of the small aircraft being used by Sky Express.

Given that I was seated in the last row of the plane, I waited on the tarmac until all other passengers had boarded, snapping some pictures  of the plane and other surrounding aircraft in the meanwhile.

sky express atr 42
The ATR 42-500 which would operate today’s flight to Naxos. ©Paliparan
boarding atr 42 sky express
Boarding was a leisurely affair. ©Paliparan
tail atr 42 sky express
The tail of the Sky Express ATR 42-500. ©Paliparan
athens airport
Looking back towards the airport terminal building. ©Paliparan
sky express atr 42
One final picture of the Sky Express ATR 42-500 before I boarded the plane. ©Paliparan

ATR 42-500 cabin

As I wrote before, there are 48 seats in total on the Sky Express ATR 42-500. As boarding is solely done through the back door, you are best off selecting a seat towards the back of the plane if you want to be among the first to leave the aircraft upon arrival.

Seats towards the back tend to be more quiet as well, as the seats in front of the propeller tend to be more noise-prone. Another advantage in my opinion is that the views are better if you have a window seat in one of the back rows as the views from the seats closer to the wing are obstructed by the propeller blades.

The seats to avoid on this plane are probably 1D-F and 2D-F. Seats 1D-F are backward-facing seats, which means that during the entire flight you are staring right into the eyes of the persons sitting in 2D-F, which could be a bit awkward.

That said, if you are a family or group of four it might be a good reason to select these seats. Having actually flown before in seat 1F on the exact same ATR 42 plane (registration number SX-GRI) from Karpathos to Athens some two years earlier, I can say that flying backwards doesn’t really feel that different compared to a normal forward-facing seat.

As for the seat itself, it was perfectly comfortable for the short hop and actually had a decent amount of legroom and acceptable seat pitch.

atr 42-500 cabin
The cabin on the ATR 42-500. Note the limited overhead storage space! ©Paliparan
sky express atr 42-500 domestic flight greece
Another cabin shot of the Sky Express ATR 42-500. ©Paliparan
sky express legroom
Amount of legroom on the Sky Express ATR 42-500 (for comparison, I’m 1.86 metres/6 ft 1 in tall. ©Paliparan
atr 42
Picture from an earlier Sky Express flight on the exact same ATR 42 plane when I was seated in 1F. Seat 1D-F face backward and thus form a shared seating area with 2D-F. You thus will stare other passengers in the face during the entire flight. ©Paliparan
leg space
Being seated in 1D-F or 2D-F also means you would have to fight for leg space with the passenger seating in front of you if all seats are occupied – which fortunately wasn’t the case on this flight as mercifully the other passenger sat diagonally from me. ©Paliparan

Departure

The load for today’s flight to Naxos was perhaps 90% and the seat next to me remained empty. We departed on time from our remote stand and within minutes lined up for take-off on the runway.

It being a lovely summer day, the views upon take-off were excellent.

olympic air
Olympic Air turboprops on the tarmac of Athens Airport. ©Paliparan
aegean airlines
An Aegean Airlines Airbus A320 at Athens Airport. ©Paliparan
departure take-off
Time for departure! ©Paliparan
airborne
Airborne. ©Paliparan
attica view wing sky express review
View over the Attica countryside. ©Paliparan
attica countryside view
View over the Attica countryside and the Athens suburbs. ©Paliparan

In-flight service

Due to the corona virus, all in-flight services were suspended. It meant there was no in-flight magazine and that the crew wouldn’t do a drinks run like it would do in normal times.

Normally, you can expect quite a good service on board of every Sky Express. On my previous pre-COVID19 Sky Express flights between Athens and Karpathos, we received a pre-packaged refreshment towel, a drink and a cookie. The choice of beverages was however limited between orange juice and water.

Shortly before landing, the sole flight attendant also handed out sweets. Given that domestic flights within Greece all have a duration of about an hour (or even less such as the 40-minute flight to Naxos) it really is all you can ask for.

When the current pandemic is over, I would expect Sky Express to resume its old in-flight service.

sky express snack atr 42 review
Although there was no service on my flight to Naxos thanks to the ongoing corona virus pandemic, normally you can expect a small snack and drink on domestic Sky Express flights. ©Paliparan
karpathos athens sky express
A small candy handed out by the flight attendant on my previous Athens-Karpathos Sky Express flight. ©Paliparan

Cycladic views

I wasn’t bothered at all by the lack of service on this short flight as the views from the window were excellent.

We had a flight path over the Cycladic islands of Syros and Paros, seemingly bypassing Naxos and leaving it on our left hand side. After clearing Paros and flying over open sea again, we however made a sharp U-turn to the left, positioning the plane right back to the north into the direction of the runway on the island of Naxos.

gyaros greece
During the flight there were excellent views over the Cyclades. Pictured here the uninhabited island of Gyaros with Andros visible in the back. ©Paliparan
syros cyclades view
Flying over the island of Syros. ©Paliparan
syros
Flying over the island of Syros. ©Paliparan
ermoupoli syros sky
Syros Airport and the main port of Ermoupoli (considered as the capital and main hub of all of the Cyclades) can be clearly seen from the window. ©Paliparan
plane window
Who needs in-flight entertainment when you have a plane window? ©Paliparan
stefano beach paros
Stefano Beach on the island of Paros has a seashore on both sides. ©Paliparan
naxos sky express
Once past Paros, we made a sharp U-turn and headed back north for the final approach towards Naxos. ©Paliparan
naxos view
Naxos in sight! ©Paliparan

Landing

Having my headphones on and listening to some lovely traditional Greek music (‘Stin Paro Ke Sti Naxo’ by Giannis Parios, very appropriate given the flight path over Paros and Naxos!) I was already in prime holiday mood.

The sweeping views over the turquoise waters of the Aegean and the lovely views over the beaches of Naxos on final descent only added to my great mood.

We touched down smoothly and on time on the short runway of Naxos Airport, ending a great flight.

aegean sea naxos sky express landing
The views over the turquoise and deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea around Naxos were amazing. ©Paliparan
naxos plane view landing
View from the window on final approach to Naxos. ©Paliparan
naxos landing view
View from the window on final approach to Naxos. The island at the other side of strait is Paros. ©Paliparan
naxos island airport jnk
Touchdown on the runway of Naxos Island National Airport (JNK). ©Paliparan

Arrival

Our ATR 42 parked at one of the few remote stands of tiny Naxos Island National Airport as it is fully called. Being seated in the last row meant I was the first to disembark the plane.

There are no buses at this airport. You simply walk from the plane to the small airport terminal building. Given that I needed to wait for my checked bag anyway, I took it easy and snapped a few pictures of the Sky Express ATR 42 and the airport before walking to baggage reclaim.

Naxos Airport is the typical small island airport where everything goes at an enormously relaxed pace. If it’s your first time arriving at such a small airport you might be in for a surprise!

Even though I have flown quite a few times to and from small Greek domestic airports, I really didn’t expect something this old-fashioned. It reminded me of the airport facilities of remote airports on the Cape Verde islands in Africa.

Baggage reclaim is actually not in the tiny terminal building but outside of it. Once you are out of the building, you simply turn left on the parking lot, walk a few feet past the entrance to the departures hall, and you will find a door to the baggage reclaim area.

Actually, the name baggage reclaim area might be a bit too much here, as the conveyor belt is literally five feet long and perhaps only three people fit in the room at the same time!

Fortunately, everyone was in a relaxed summer mood and/or took corona measures seriously. There was no crowding whatsoever and everyone patiently waited for their suitcase to appear.

sky express atr 42
Our Sky Express ATR 42 on its remote stand at Naxos Airport. ©Paliparan
sky express atr 42-500
Our Sky Express ATR 42-500. ©Paliparan
naxos airport
From the plane, you simply walk to the small terminal building. ©Paliparan
naxos national airport
The small terminal building of Naxos National Airport. ©Paliparan
naxos airport
The tiny baggage reclaim hall of Naxos Airport. ©Paliparan

In short

I had an excellent flight on Sky Express. Despite the fact that on-board service was temporarily discontinued due to corona, I really enjoyed this short 40-minute flight thanks to the stunning views from the window.

Although flights on small turboprop planes can be prone to delays due to high winds or other weather conditions, Sky Express generally runs a smooth operation with on-time flights.

With a free snack and drink on board and even complimentary lounge access for (most of) its passengers, there are some other major reasons why Sky Express is well worth seeking out when travelling to Greece.

The one major piece of advice I want to give other travellers is to carefully check your baggage allowance. There are a lot of unfair reviews on the internet about Sky Express when it comes to (cabin) luggage and such – but 99% of them are completely unwarranted.

Read the baggage rules, realise that you are likely to fly a small airplane to one of the Greek island which obviously means there are serious luggage constraints, and you will for sure have a great experience.

I’ve always enjoyed my Sky Express flight and today’s trip to Naxos was no exception. Having flown a few times before with Sky Express, I can certainly recommend this small domestic Greek airline to everyone.

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘A Dodecanese Dream: Summer Island Hopping in Greece‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. Back in the Skies – My First International Flight in the Age of Corona
2. Review: Kimon Hotel, Athens, Greece
3. Exploring Plaka: Through the Winding Streets of the Old Town of Athens
4. Climbing up the Acropolis: Visiting Athens’ Most Famous Sight
5. Review: Skyserv Melina Merkouri Lounge Athens Airport
6. Review: Sky Express (ATR 42) Athens to Naxos (current chapter)
7. Review: Studios Zafiri, Naxos Town, Greece
8. Naxos Town: The Gorgeous Historic Heart of the Cyclades
9. Review: Blue Star Ferries Naxos to Astypalaia
10. Review: Belvedere Studios, Astypalaia Town, Greece
11. Astypalea Town: The Unknown Crown Jewel of the Aegean Sea
12. Astypalea Island Guide: Exploring the Butterfly of the Aegean
13. On a Night Boat in Greece – Astypalea to Kastellorizo With Blue Star Ferries
14. Review: Traditional Apartments Alexandra, Kastellorizo, Greece
15. Kastellorizo: A Look Around Greece’s Easternmost Island
16. Hiking on Kastellorizo: Two Sunset Hikes Detailed
17. Review: Olympic Air Kastellorizo to Rhodes (Dash 8-100)

** rest of the chapters to follow soon **

Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

2 thoughts on “Review: Sky Express Athens to Naxos (ATR 42)

  • December 29, 2020 at 9:26 pm
    Permalink

    Wow Koen, Naxos Airport is a lot more sophisticated than I remember it in 1985!

    Reply
    • December 29, 2020 at 9:49 pm
      Permalink

      Ha really?! I would have expected it looked like this since like forever! Didn’t quite expect it, as for example Karpathos has a nicer, bigger more modern-looking airport while being much less touristy – although that said, Karpathos has a large runway and handles some international flights while Naxos doesn’t.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.