Flying Into Athens Airport With a Dog
But what can I tell you about an airport? Is Athens any different than any other?
Athens International Airport is the primary civilian airport serving Athens and the surrounding area, and is the major hub and base of Olympic Air. The airport serves just fewer than 13 million passengers annually. (For comparison, Heathrow serves about 70 million passengers annually and Pearson serves about 35 million.)
Athens’ airport is, however, relatively new compared to many. This airport – a replacement of the old Ellinikon International Airport – was completed in March 2001. Sadly, the financial crisis of 2007-2008 severely reduced traffic at the lovely new Athens International Airport.
To our dismay, United Airlines and several smaller foreign airlines ended their services to Athens. Delta Airlines terminated its winter-scheduled service to and from NYC in 2012, leaving Greece without a direct connection to the United States for the first time in almost 70 years! But there is good news: 2014 seems to signal a recovery for the airport’s passenger traffic. More than ten airlines started (or are scheduled to start) new flights to and from Athens, including the ever-popular budget (but not pet friendly) airline, Ryanair.
On a practical level, Athens’ airport offers the usual stuff:
- Free WiFi – Available in the airport for 60 minutes. Additional time is subject to a fee.
- ATMs / Cash Machines – ATMs are located both landside (meaning on the side before clearing customs) and airside, on both Arrivals and Departures levels.
- Car Rentals – Alamo • Avis • Budget • Europcar • Hertz • National• Sixt. Location: Arrivals Level.
- Children’s Play Area – An area to occupy your children before the flight. Location: Main Terminal Building, 2nd floor. Hours: 9am – 9pm.
- Currency Exchange – There is a Eurochange. Location unknown. Hours: open 24 hours.
- Food & Beverage – At the time of this update, there are many food and beverage concessions that are open 24-hours, but I don’t have the names and their locations.
- Luggage Storage & Lockers – Care4Bag offers luggage storage. Rates start at Eur 3.00 (small bag) or Eur 7.00 (large bag) for 6 hours. Hours: open 24 hours.
- Pharmacy – Location: Arrivals Level, Landside. Hours: 6am – 12am. (Best place to get water and meds if staying at the Sofitel!)
- Showers – The only shower areas are in the lounges (members only).
What is totally new and unusual at the Athens Airport is the Airport Tours! The airport offers a free two-hour tour of the Main Terminal, Baggage Handling System, Archaeological Museum (with over 172 items found while building the airport!) and Fire Brigade Station, including the “Panther” fire-rescue vehicles. Tours are held Monday – Friday (9am – 2pm). Contact: (+30) 210 3531335.
Sadly we did not know about this option when we went through the airport or we would have taken it! If you are ever at the airport and have time to spare, this seems like a fun way to move a bit and learn something about airports and archaeology!
What airport has a museum?! The museum has permanent exhibitions dedicated to Eleftherios Venizelos (link to wiki) and to the Airport, but also hosts cultural events, including painting and photography exhibitions, book presentations, and a number of cultural collaborations. How did we not know about this?!
Unfortunately, what the airport lacks is an indoor pet relief area. When at Athens Airport, you will have to do the usual and plan your pet’s potty breaks accordingly. To the airport’s credit, there are great expanses of grass you can use at the airport’s landside main entrance. These grassy areas include the garden at the front of the Sofitel just across the street.
Note, however, that if you have checked in for your flight and you exit to give your pet a potty break, you will have to go through security again. The only exception is if you are only flying within the European Union or are flying to a Schengen country.
Another caution has to do with access to shopping. Once you have cleared customs, or entered the waiting area for your specific flight, you will have access only to a vending machine for drinks (and water). You can’t leave to return to the main shopping space without undertaking an adventure best left for … well, urban adventurers made of stiffer stuff than this traveller! This is an unfortunate oversight in the airport’s design. So be warned: get all your duty free shopping done (if flying out of Europe) and regardless of where you are flying, make sure you have purchased any snacks or drinks you want before settling into the waiting area.
On the plus side, the bathrooms in the waiting area are really nice and clean. I went wee-wee on my portable grass and found the space perfectly acceptable.
And if doing airport research before your trip, Athens Airport has one of the most attractive and fun websites I’ve visited for an airport. Just watching their home screen video clips is a visual treat. (If you have a cat, I’ll bet your cat will have fun chasing the moving images! Silly cats.)
On the whole, we have to say we enjoyed Athens Airport. I walked about on my leash and no one said anything at all. I wasn’t the only dog around either.
Although there are plenty of people about, even early in the morning (the airport is busy 24/7), you still get the feeling of a small and manageable space that is easy to navigate, is clean and surprisingly well organized … unlike, say, the nightmare that is the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris (link). The staff is friendly, and almost everyone, even the cleaning staff, spoke some broken English.
Best of all, everyone seemed happy to see me! That made me happy! Flying Into Athens Airport with a dog is A OK!