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Flying to Greece
True Stories of Cheap Flights to Greece

Flying to Greece does not have to be an unpleasant experience.
Unfortunately for me, flying anywhere usually is.

Andrea hates flying. I hate flying. Amarandi loves flying but her behavior on planes make us hate it even more. If we are lucky she finds a little friend and they terrorize the rest of the passengers and leave us alone at least for a little while. Usually we are not so lucky. On one flight our neighbor yelled at me for not controlling my child. On another flight, the people behind us got off the full 747 at an unscheduled stop in Ireland and never came back. It's not that she's a bad child it's just that she is wild and spontaneous and free and there is nothing we can do about it. So if you happen to see us on your flight, do yourself a favor and ask for seats on the other end of the plane and pray she doesn't become friends with the child in the next row.

I'm not one of those people who is afraid of dying in a fiery mid-air collision or a crash during take-off or landing. (Andrea is.) I just don't like being cooped up in those tight little seats with nowhere to go but to the bathroom. Usually on an Athens Flight the bathrooms are filled with people smoking cigarettes and surrounded by people smoking too. It's like running the gauntlet and when you finally breach the walls discovering the enemy has already been inside and stunk up the place.

But the reason that flying is such a misadventure for us is because we always go for the cheapest tickets. I know I would have no complaints flying First Class on Swiss Air rather then Economy on Tower but I figure I can stand just about anything for 10 hours. And once I get off the plane I have my whole vacation to recuperate.

But it's not like I am not used to horrible flights. In my youth I was an expert at tracking down the cheapest fare, no matter how many hoops I had to jump through to reach my destination. I used to fly AirHitch out of NY. They buy left-over seats on chartered flights and sell them for $169. The thing is you are not positive that your preferred destination is actually where you will go, if you go anywhere. That trip back to Manhattan is a hard one without a Greek vacation under your belt. Nothing to do but grab my pal and go to Astoria (the Greek section of New York) for a night of Rembetika, Retsina and Greek food for not much more then what I had planned to spend my first week in Sifnos. If I survive the night and still want to go to Greece, the following day is a day of decision. I can wait a week for the next charter to Athens that might have an empty seat, unlikely because it will be July and everyone returns to Greece then, or I can take my chances with my AirHitch (or AirTech) voucher and head for the airport to get on a flight to anywhere. This is not very feasible if you are traveling with your family or addicted to plans but being young and open to new experiences it seemed like an adventure to me. I called the office and got a list of flights that had seats available. I didn't know where I was going, only where I might go. In this situation phrase books are useless and one should avoid the temptation to change money. I had it easy this time. My destination turned out to be Amsterdam. There was a short delay in which we actually ate our dinner on the runway and I used up my 3 hour allotment of sleep time, but eventually we were airborne. After a nondiscript flight we landed in Amsterdam. Then, following a quick tour of the city and it's bars I took a pleasant train ride to the coast where I boarded a giant ferry, complete with disco and cinema, bound for Great Britain. After another pleasant train ride, I found myself in London where I could recuperate from all this pleasantness and search the papers (Time-Out or the Evening Standard) for a cheap flight to Athens or somewhere in the general vicinity. In this case a 4 a.m. flight from Gatwick to Santorini did the trick.

Had I known what Santorini would be like I would have packed a parachute and gotten off as we flew over Athens. I had spent many years avoiding the Spring Break college scene in Ft Lauderdale, Florida and here it was to greet me in the Aegean. After gathering my wits at the only restaurant I could find with Greek food, I decided to make a break for it and caught a boat for Athens. Duration of the trip in traveling time was a mere 42 hours. The total cost only $300 and I still had a return ticket from Santorini to London (that I couldn't even give away.)

I shouldn't complain. My friend Leigh took a "non-stop" flight from New York to Athens, had to change planes 3 times in Yugoslavia, was detained for not having a visa and almost imprisoned for transporting a bag of Japanese twig tea. He flew back TWA.

My first experience on one of these flights I was told by a voice on the phone to be at Grand Central Station at 4 a.m. to pick up my ticket. I suppose that's normal if you are homeless, a drug addict or trans-Atlantic bargain hunting. When I got there, there were several other young travelers waiting for the voice to arrive with the tickets. When a man did turn up, he was not the 'voice' but nevertheless persuaded us to board a waiting bus. When we pulled up at the airport terminal he told us to "...get in line, keep quiet, and don't talk to reporters or official looking people."
"What kind of flight is this?" I asked Rusty, the beautiful redhead girl who was going back to school in Lucerne. " Are they sending us as mercenaries to Angola?" We may not look like heroes but watch what happens if you dangle this ticket in front of us.

The best cheap flight I took at a time I didn't even want to go anywhere: it was such a good deal I couldn't resist. It was a flight from Athens to Copenhagen where they put us up in a fancy hotel, fed us and flew us to NY the next day. I remember landing in Copenhagen and Iremember arriving in New York. I don't recall what happened in between but I am pretty sure I had fun.

On a flight from Athens to New York we were able to stop in Czechoslovakia and spend several hours standing in various lines just like the locals do. It was very educational. Then an hour out of NY we were given the added thrill of an unscheduled stop in Danbury Connecticut for no extra charge.

A lot of my flights seem to stop at Gander in Newfoundland. I guess to stock up on cheap Canadian goods and replace the fuel spent sitting on the runway in New York, idling the engines while awaiting clearance. When it comes to take-off, I guess cheap flights are a low priority. As for landings it's hard to say. Who knows what's going on below while you are circling the airport for 2 hours.

I took a flight that I bought in West Berlin on East-German Air. We got on a bus that took us through the Wall to East Berlin where we left from.

My 7 a.m. flight from Athens to Brussels on one of the Iron Curtain Airlines was canceled, I discovered when I arrived bleary-eyed at the airport. The next flight was a week later and I had just said good-bye to my girlfriend for the last time because leaving the country is always easier then breaking up. I went back to my room and hid there for the week.

I always run into someone I know on a cheap flight. Then I spend the entire trip trying to avoid them by pretending I'm asleep. It's the old "I would never join a club that would have me as a member" number.

The last cheap flight I took solo made me realize that sometimes economizing can backfire. I had been hanging around Athens all week trying to get my flight confirmed. There were a few minor complications such as the booking being done by telex through New York and my agent having taken a small mid-week vacation, but I was finally told to pick up my ticket one morning for my flight that afternoon. Unfortunately the agent had made a slight mistake and had booked me for the following Monday, a week away. I took the time to work it out. A week at my hotel, food and minus a week's paycheck from the job that was waiting for me in America and my $300 ticket actually cost more then a thousand dollars.

So the moral of the story is if you are young and not on a schedule and you can handle minor setbacks then go for the cheap flights.

If you do get on a flight to Athens and you see me with my distressed wife and my relentlessly exuberant daughter do yourself a favor and upgrade to first class. Don't worry. They won't let us in there. We have tried.

Originally Printed in Athenian Magazine

See also Getting to Athens and Matt's Guide to Flying to Greece

Hotel Attalos, Athens, Greece

Don't under estimate the peace of mind one has when he knows there is someone waiting at the airport to take them to their hotel and basically all you have to do is get your passport stamped, pick up your bags and enter the main terminal and find him, which is pretty easy if you know how to read and can recognize your own name on a sign. For this reason I always use a taxi transfer, either booking directly with George the Famous Taxi Driver, or through a Greek travel agency. For those people who have booked hotels, ferries and tours through an agency your trip to and from the airport is part of the package. For those who have booked hotels and ferries on their own you will need to do this on your own. I think it is worth it. The cost is between 55 and 65 euros depending on where you are going.

Help Support Matt's Greece Travel Guides 
Do you enjoy using my site? Have you found it entertaining as well as useful? If so please show your appreciation by booking hotels through the travel agencies and the links found on my Greek Travel Agents Page. The small comission I make on the bookings enable me to keep working and in most cases you won't find them any cheaper by searching elsewhere. You can also book at's Greece Pages and they give me a small percentage on each booking.

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