Flying Olympic with an In-Cabin Pet!
When our wonderful travel agent Danielle informed Mom that the only way to get from Athens to Sofia was to fly with Olympic Air… Mom’s eyebrows rose very high.
In fact I recall her asking: “Are you certain?” and there was a pause and then a head nod.
Mom sat in her chair and I could see that she was trying to decide if this was acceptable. Not that we had a choice of course but… still.
You see, the airline isn’t exactly what you would call dependable.
If you think I exaggerate allow me to quickly gloss over their history for a moment.
- Icarus (Aaaaaak what were they thinking?), Olympics predecessor, was established in 1930. After just a few months Icarus went bankrupt.
- After World War II, three airlines were based in Greece: T.A.E., Greek Air Transport and Hellenic Airlines.
- In 1951 nearing bankruptcy the airlines merged into, TAE Greek National Airlines.
- The new airline faced financial problems so the government closed it down in 1955.
- July 1956 Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis purchased the airline. The company flew under the T.A.E. name.
- On 6 April 1957 the company was renamed Olympic Airways.
- In 1962 Olympic Airways set a record, flying a DH Comet 4B from London to Athens, in just two hours and 51 minutes.
- On 22 January 1973, Aristotle Onassis’ son, Alexander, dies in a plane crash. Onassis then sells all of his shares to the Greek state and dies in 1975.
- The company faces serious financial trouble in the 1980s and 1990s, mostly due to poor management.
- In 2003 the government restructures the Olympic Airways Group of Companies.
- In 2005, the Greek Government lookes for potential buyers to privatize. But all offers fall through due to an unsettled fine by the European Commission.
- On 12 September 2007, the EU court rules that Olympic should repay all debts owed. A €130 million sum.
- In November 2007, Irish airline Ryanair files their suit with the European Commission, claiming that Olympic has not paid back their debt.
- On 6 March 2009, Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis announces the sale of the flight operations and the technical base companies to MIG. After 35 years of state control and ten years of failed sales attempts, Olympic was once again a private corporation.
- On 28 September 2009, Olympic Airlines ceases to fly to most of their 69 destinations.
- The last Olympic Airlines flight – flight 424 from Toronto via Montreal, lands at 11:10 on 29 September 2009 at the Athens International Airport.
- Changing names – again – Olympic Air commences limited operations on 29 September 2009
- On 22 February 2010, Olympic Air and main competitor Aegean Airlines announce they have reached an agreement to merge their operations, phasing out the Aegean brand.
- After an in depth inquiry by the European Competitions Commission, it is announced on 26 January 2011 that the merger is blocked citing anti-competitive concerns.
- Following a renewed attempt to sell the company to Aegean Airlines and the subsequent approval by the Competition Commissioner on 10 October 2013, the airline is, as of 23 October 2013, a full subsidiary of Aegean Airlines.
In other words? A MESS!
So yeah … I could totally understand Mom’s hesitation. But here is the thing. We had no choice. There were literally, absolutely ZERO other options. No trains connect Athens to Sofia, or even Greece to Bulgaria. No ferries connect the shores of those two countries. Rental car companies would not let us do a one way from Athens to Sofia… or anywhere into Bulgaria. No other airlines fly. We were … stuck.
So we did what we always do. Shrugged our shoulders and said “Ok… well … is Olympic Air in cabin pet friendly at least?”
And because that information isn’t available online (huge pet peeve!), that meant actualy getting a hold of someone… Oy vey.
It didn’t start well. Turns out that the North American office for Olympic Air was shut down. So the only way to get the information was from the main office in Athens. Our travel agent sent them an email and when three days later she had still not heard back from them she tried calling. She got a lot of run around but finally got a hold of someone who asked her what kind of carrier I was going to be in. Luckily she knew this and sent them the sleepypod page with the description and full measurements. They responded saying the carrier could not be round (ummm… why?) and that it had to be a hard case.
This was going to be a problem. The last thing we wanted to do was have to lug around a hard case carrier (not to mention buying one just for this short flight) all over the Greek islands while we sailed. So we asked if a soft sided, but traditionally shaped carrier, would be ok and … they said YES!. That was a good thing because I had a new, collapsable carrier perfect for long term travel that I was itching to try it out!
Then there was some confusion around fees and … well long story short I think we owe Danielle a night out on the town for all her trouble.
With all of this behind us, on the day we had to fly the bipeds were a little… tiny bit… nervous.
We were already happy when we went to check in and the airline was still around and flying! Yay! Bonus!
Then we were told we had to go to a desk to pay for my passage. So we went. When we got there Mom asked if they had a policy for ESA’s; because I am a registered as one and have the paperwork to prove it. Did they charge for those? Turns out – surprise of all surprises – Olympic lets ESA’s fly for free!
So, armed with a note scribbled on an old receipt from the lady at that desk we went back to the check-in spot and … walked right through with the right boarding pass and everything. In fact there was another lady traveling with her min pin as well!
We waited for the flight to be called … and then got onto the bus that taxied us to the plane. I always find this amusing and fun. You get to see the plane up close!
We boarded and I sat quiet as a mouse. The staff saw me and didn’t show interest in me one way or the other. I was allowed to stay on Mom’s lap in my carrier. We took off and soon we landed in Sofia.
It was all and all, an uneventful flight! Dare I say it? It was even anti-climactic. I really had expected to get loads of material for a scathing review. But … nope.
I learned a lesson that day. Don’t always let a checkered past cloud your judgement or cause anxiety for nothing. In the end, Olympic Air was rather pleasant and I would fly with them again.
Have you ever had a pleasant surprise like this?