Many choose Olympic because there are direct, non-stop flights from major cities to Athens, Greece, thus skirting the need to transfer and cutting flight time by a few hours…at least in theory. To get the most out of your experience, take heed of a few friendly tips:
1. Lower your expectations
I’ve heard people describe Olympic as the anti-Singapore Airlines, which aptly describes flights that don’t leave on time (if at all due to strikes, weather, under-staffing, etc.), frowny air hosts/hostesses who appear annoyed with you, and service that can only be described as brusque. Want an extra cup of water? Get outta here!
Once in awhile you encounter a gem of a person who is almost always a male steward, but it’s better to be surprised than dance the line of hope and denial.
2. Take a blanket or a fleece pullover
Friends who came to Greece a few weeks ago told me that blankets are no longer placed on passenger seats, much like other airlines trying to cut costs. However, unlike other airlines, Olympic did not have blankets even after requesting one unless sitting in first class.
3. Bring snacks or starve
Airline food has gotten a bad rap since the beginning of time, but some airlines are clearly better than others. Of the hundreds of flights I’ve taken, OA food has got to be some of the worst ever, and others have told me the same thing.
One of the funniest things I’ve seen on OA was at meal time. When a 70ish Greek gentleman sitting in front of me was asked if he wanted chicken, beef or fish, he replied with a dismissive “Ech,” threw up his hand and cocked his head back. He explained to me in Greek that it was pointless to offer a choice because it was all bad. LOL.
Listen to the man — save your stomach and bring your own food, or starve and lose some kilos.
4. Don’t bother using their phone number
How many times have I watched the ground crew at JFK or Athens put people on eternal hold or let the machine answer with a recording? When asked why they don’t answer the customer service line, the reply was, “We make a recording because the phone is ringing all day and bothering us.” (Yeesh) Well, excuse us!
You must go in person to the airport or in-town office, use web check-in and/or access information via another method.
5. Bring earphones
Understandably, there is no such thing as a free lunch nowadays. If you didn’t bring headphones, there is no guarantee that anyone will even give you the option to purchase them. Usually the ones from your MP3 player fit the jack in the armrest.
Your MP3 player can also do double duty in drowning out the incessant noise, if you plan to sleep on an OA flight and don’t have travel medication or a sleeping pill
6. Get ready to make some noise
In addition to the noise created by other people, you should be ready to make some noise yourself since being polite, mature and straightforward often garners no attention. If your flight was delayed and no compensation offered, firmly demand a voucher. If someone is sitting in your seat, don’t hesitate to have them removed. If they are pushing you around, get out the Kathimerini’s phone number and report the ill treatment — a tourist did this and got immediate results.
Being on an OA flight is simply an extension of being in Greece — a macrocosm in a microcosm — where one gets results by acting like a child and making threats. Not always, but the majority of the time.
7. “Overly enjoy the wine”/duty-free liquor
In-flight drinks are expensive these days, so some passengers break into their duty-free liquor to cope. Another solution is to consider travel medication or sleeping pills within reason; both are inexpensive purchases in Greece.
* “Overly enjoy the wine” is a quote from reader CS
8. Steady your sense of humor
Treat the flight like a comedy, not a tragedy. It’s entertainment at no extra charge, and you’ll have stories to tell when you get home.
* Jimmy “Super Greek” Tsantis of NYC has a funny parody song called, “Flying on Olympic” to the tune of “Taking care of business.” He’s hilarious, not to mention a wonderful soul.
9. Take out travel insurance, earn some extra cash
Many travel insurance policies pay out for a delayed/canceled flight and delay/loss of luggage. If you’re flying with Olympic, you’ll likely make money! Oh yes, and it’s also peace of mind should you be in an accident or need medical/dental treatment.
10. Don’t do it
After hearing hundreds of stories about Olympic Airlines, I finally experienced them for myself back in 2000. Well, let’s just say my friends are honest and that’s why they’re my friends. I vowed to never take another OA flight and for years chose to pay more money to avoid them, until I was faced with flying to NYC at the last minute. I knew something was wrong when my travel agent got really quiet, told me I wasn’t going to like the answer, and sounded artificially enthusiastic about the price and schedule before telling me the airline. Argh!!!
My only saving grace was a wonderful male steward who pronounced egg, “eh-guh-guh,” but otherwise that last flight pretty much closed the door on any future business. Now my travel agent doesn’t dare mention OA as an option.
* This post was inspired by the many victims souls who have tolerated OA, most recently RB and SM who were fortunate to board their flight at 11:30 during nationwide strikes, which plagued public transport, public sector offices, media, lawyers, banks, schools, post offices, hospitals, ferries, and of course 75 Olympic Airlines flights. Others were not so lucky and stranded another day in Athens.
“Olympic Air near Paros approached wrong airport” – Aviation Herald – December 12, 2009
“OA crew overlooked airplane problems” – Sept 2008
“OA lacking planes and cash” – August 2008
“Five OA flights grounded due to technical problems” – June 2008
“Singer Kostas Makedonas injured after OA helicopter develops mechanical fault” – April 2008
“OA flight safely grounded” – November 20, 2007
“OA grounds four unsafe planes; blames others” – November 17, 2007
Photo from wikimedia.org