To anyone planning on flying a Greek airline or visiting Greece, or worse yet both, be forewarned. If their airlines and immigration mirror the state of the country at all, then its safe to say they’re in deep shit.
We started off the day well enough – got picked up in our own mini-bus to get to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport and passed the time away in the HSBC lounge before our flight.We were flying on Aegean Airlines and checked-in online the night before. That was good. We were able to get exit row seats. Even better.
We were flying to Athens and had an hour to catch our Mykonos connecting flight. Felt that was a little short for immigration and baggage rechecking, but okay, the airline knows these things better, I thought.
We left the comforts of our lounge once we saw the flight information screen show it was okay to board. Once we got to our gate, there was no plane – turns out the flight was late. 15 minutes they said. Then it was 30 minutes. Then they said go to another gate. Then it was another 10 minutes.
Finally, we boarded and everything seemed to go normally.
When we arrived in Athens, the real drama began.
I remember one time when I passed through Charles de Gaulle airport on our way to Dubai that our flight coming in was delayed. As we were similarly running late, I was impressed when while queued up for immigration, someone shouted out our flight and led us to a faster line. To expect the same thing to happen in Athens is to believe in the tooth fairy.
We arrived in Athens greeted by a very long immigration queue. I could hear people all around us saying they would be missing their flight, or their flight was about to leave. There were only four – FOUR! – people manning immigration. One for Eurozone passports, one for Diplomatic passports, and two for the rest of the world. I could already sense panic from those in line, mine as well, and could see others asking uniformed staff what to do. Some of these staff would then point them to go somewhere. I told Anthony to keep our place in line so I could ask around. First time I did, I was told to go to ‘the other line’.
‘What other line?’ I said.
‘The other line.’ she said
‘Is it this line or that line?’ I said, pointing with my finger.
And then she walked away.
I asked another staffer who advised I follow her…which I did. I gestured to Anthony to come over…which he did. The person then led us to one part of the Diplomatic passport line, cutting off those who were already on it, then she walked away.
At that point our flight was scheduled to leave any minute. Would they leave us behind?
Around 15 minutes later, both of us were finally through immigration. We needed to get to baggage claim, go up to the departure level, and check-in our luggage again. I had no doubt this was how it was supposed to be. As confirmation, when we got to the carousel I even heard a staffer tell another set of passengers to do the same. Having waited around 10 minutes, Anthony asked another staffer who looked at our baggage slips and told us they were already checked through.
We’re running at this point to our gate, which as luck would have it is at the other end of the terminal.
As with Murphy’s Law, right before the gates we have to go through a security check…tick-tock-tick-tock…
I’m advised to take out my laptop and remove my belt…tick-tock…
Our names along with two others are broadcast on the p.a. system to proceed to the gate…tick-tock…
I run towards the gate ahead of Anthony who gets stuck in the security line.
From 50 m away the airline gate attendant is yelling…
‘YES’, I yell back.
She shouts my last name.
‘YES’, I yell again.
‘Where is the other one?’ she asks.
‘He’s on his way’ I said.
‘CALL HIM!!’ she starts shouting, ‘CALL HIM!!’
I’m temporarily stunned. My instinct was to whip out my phone to actually call him, but she’s still shouting at me and then talking into a walkie-talkie. I glare at her and leave all my stuff – passport, bagpack, belt – on the gate desk and run back to see where Anthony is. I see him from afar and motion him to run faster. He eventually reaches the gate, hands over his boarding pass, and we both breathlessly get into the last bus that brings us to the plane.
We’d arranged to be picked-up from the airport and our driver was indeed there to meet us, as well as a certain Siri Titlestad.
Unfortunately for Miss Titlestad, she has to take another transfer as one of her bags didn’t make it. ):
We arrive at our hotel just in time to view the sunset from our balcony.
Despite the unnecessarily tense reintroduction to the Greek system at the start of the trip, it feels good to be back. Hello again, Mykonos, my old friend.
Next up, welcome to The Vencia…