Greek national airline Aegean navigates the Scylla and Charybdis of flag carriers, pressured on the one hand by low-cost and holiday airlines working at volume and on the other by global carriers seeking to serve the premium end of its travel market, consistently one of the world’s top ten destinations.
Increasingly, the airline has been positioning itself at that premium end of the market within Europe, following an unfortunately timed mid-February 2020 rebranding exercise with PriestmanGoode. The rebrand, which the airline calls its “neo era” — the “era” bit is bang on trend, kids — includes a new livery, seats and service concept, so I was interested to find out if it lived up to the new snappy, modern brand on a recent flight from Paris to Athens.
Booking was easy and simple on the airline’s website, and I was able to pre-order my meal, which is above average within Europe. As with most airlines, it was unfortunate that my first in-person contact with the brand was via an outsourced outstation handling agent. Aegean’s at Paris were particularly farcical, with a sort of French-farce-meets-Greek-tragicomedy involving a lot of sitting around aimlessly waiting for the boss with the keys, then having to amble off to find luggage tags.
I did note the impressively digitalised luggage notifications in the app: these are not yet a standard among Europe’s digitally lagging airlines.
The lounge — the Star Alliance facility that is outside the Schengen Zone — was only mediocre, and since we needed to technically re-enter France we left on time for the gate.
This was also unfortunate, because a more chaotic and unprofessional boarding process is hard to imagine.
Once on board our Airbus A321neo, though, the atmosphere was entirely different.
While the brand’s blue palette is nothing unusual in aviation, the Collins Meridian seats are well above average, with the pattern on the leather echoing the branded antimacassars.
There’s a very decent amount of legroom — it felt like 33-34”, although with a seat like Meridian where the shin clearance is improved this is hard to tell without pulling out the tape measure.
The overall space was also well above average.
Aegean mixes these aircraft between longer flights to western Europe and short hops domestically, but on this 2h45m flight the USB-A power and particularly the seatback phone/tablet holder were very welcome.
The pleasant, friendly and efficient crew sprang into action after takeoff, and a bar service featuring Greek sparkling wine, a choice of four other Greek wines, and an extensive set of other bar options was offered. The Amalia sparkling didn’t compare to Champagne or even a good Spanish Cava, but I enjoyed the pre-mixed Negroni.
With my meal, I tried the reds and whites, finishing off with the unusual Chios Mastiha liqueur, all of which were a great showcase for hometown producers.
The food was very Greek and thoroughly delicious, although the notional appetiser (which came with the most delicious dressing) was much larger than the main course. The one exception was the sad dry roll… given the flight length here, was some sort of warmed flatbread option that might travel better not an option?
While the crew disappeared into the curtained galley after the service for their own meal, they passed through the cabin frequently enough and were always happy to offer a fresh glass of something new to try and to top up my accompanying glass of sparkling water.
Inflight entertainment and connectivity were served via the airline’s decent portal, and the European Aviation Network performed exceptionally well.
All in all, Aegean’s business class #PaxEx was above average in every way except for Paris’ ground services, which were average to below average. For a challenger national carrier with a new brand, that’s good news: I’d happily fly them again and would even pay a modest premium over larger airlines.
- EAN inflight connectivity astounds on Aegean A321neo
- Aegean brand evolves as airline embraces identity and culture
- Surprise-and-delight: a new model for Champagne and other beverages?
- When a BA Euro Traveller with add-ons outshines Club Europe
- Geven Essenza sparkles on Austrian A320 Eurobusiness
Featured image credited to John Walton