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Connecting Flights in Athens

I am flying to Zakinthos in June for my daughter's wedding. Flying from the US, connecting through Athens. I'm trying to make a same day connection from ATH to ZTH and wonder about connecting time needed at ATH.

My flight from the USA is scheduled to arrive 11:20 on 13 Jun 2022. My chances of getting to Zakinthos that day depend on my catching a 12:50pm flight on a domestic Greek airline.

Without expecting any guarantees, what is the likelihood I would be successful making that connection, while needing first to clear Immigration check and retrieve my checked bag?

The next available flight is 07:25 the next day.

Posted by
2207 posts

Congratulations to your daughter -- How exciting!!! When we set up connections in Athens - transferring on a separate ticket with checked bags - we always allow 3+ hours. Given that YOU HAVE TO BE THERE for this event, I'd plan on an overnight stay at the Athens Airport (The Sofitel Athens Airport has a great wellness spa - make it a spa day and recover from jetlag!).

Because you have a checked bag, you would have to land on time, exit the plane, head to immigration, clear passport control, go to the baggage carousel, wait for and retrieve your checked bags, exit security, find the check-in counter for your next flight, drop your checked bag off, go back through security, then walk to your gate... in less than 1.5 hours. That seems to be a tall order in Athens, based on my experiences there. And if you're on separate tickets, you'd be "unprotected" on that second flight, so then buying a next-day ticket could get expensive. (And what's your recourse if that "next" flight is SOLD OUT?). And given the number of changes airlines are making in schedules --- what if the arrival time for your first flight changes, creating an even narrower window?

There are just too many factors out of your control like... arriving on time in Athens, the length of the lines or # of open counters in immigration, or how long it takes for your checked bag to show up, and even the first airline changing your arrival time. I suppose you could use a company like Luggage Forward and send your checked bags on ahead of you. It MIGHT be doable with carry-on only, but for the cost of a pre-shipped luggage company - and still not knowing for sure you'd make it because your first flight was late on a day YOU HAVE TO BE THERE - I'd spend that money on a spa day, relax, and arrive at the wedding site rested... and not stressed out.

Posted by
11511 posts

A thought regarding your ATH-ZTH , and presumably ZTH-ATH, ticket(s).

If you do attempt the 90 minute connection, buy one way tickets.

If you buy a r/t and miss the first flight, your return flight is automatically cancelled. In that circumstance you have to buy a replecement for each leg, not just the missed onward leg.

Good luck

Posted by
1178 posts

While Athens Airport is small compared to many other European airports and is efficient I think the 1.5 hours is cutting it too close.

Normally it takes about 1 hour to deplane, go through Passport Control and get your luggage. Then you'll have to leave the Arrivals Area, walk upstairs to Departures, check in, maybe security(?) and walk to your gate.

Then there is Covid to consider.

I agree that if you can arrive in Athens the day before your flight would be best and spend the night in Athens and leave the next morning.

Posted by
3363 posts

I agree that 90 minutes is too chancy. Opt for the next-day flight ... does that make you too late for some pre-wedding events? Then u should see about bumping your transatlantic flight a day earlier.

If there's no problem with a June 14 flight to Zakinthos, then give yourself that "free day" to recover from jet-lag and Get into a Greek Mood ... but IMHO, that's not as much fun in a totally-International-Style (and VERY pricey) Airport Hotel... in the middle of a bleak flat landscape, surrounded by highways & runways. Instead, you can get a FREE shuttle to/from airport, a 25-min trip, to a lovely smaller modern hotel in the seaside Village of Rafina -- Hotel Avra -- at about half the room rate - A number of the "Vets" on the Greece travel forums have discovered this option. U could choose a room with balcony overlooking the beach which is about 500 yards away, great for an afternoon dip. Instead of meals in the middle of an "airport desert" you can find a small cafe on a tree-lined square. The shuttle runs as early as needed -- the only requirement is, u have to specify your to/from times at th same time you make room reservation. No, I'm not a hotel agent, ha ha, I'm just so pleased that for people who have an early morning departure, there is this moderate-price alternative to a pricey place with a monopoly on airport territory.

Posted by
209 posts

Thank you for all the input.
It turns out I can't even give it a go, even if I'm feeling adventurous and a little lucky.

I sent this question to this forum last night at the same time I sent the same to the airline in question.

The reply:

Check-in ends 30 minutes before departure.

The gate closes 20 minutes before scheduled departure.

I'm not THAT adventurous, and my guess is that it can't even be done within those parameters.
AND I can only make changes on changeable ticket up to 3 hours bore departure (which would be 1.5 hours before scheduled arrival in Athens).

I was planning to get to Zakinthos for the several days leading up to the wedding, then travel on to Nafplio, Hydra and wrap up the trip with my days in Athens.

I now have two options, as I see it, one of which your additional input can help me with:

  1. Keep things as they are, but with arrival day completely in Athens, then catch the early flight to Zakinthos the next morning, keeping the remainder of the itinerary the same with the bulk of days in Athens at the end.

    What can a guy do in Athens for a day after arriving around 11:30am? It's a jet lag recovery day, on which I usually stay up til local bedtime and get a real night of sleep.

  2. Re-plan the itinerary with my days in Athens moved from the end of the itinerary to the beginning, then going to Zakinthos on the date I had originally planned for, on to Nafplio and Hydra with my final night in Athens for the return flight.

You and the forum have been helpful to me deciding on itinerary locations, and I appreciate that very much.
The responses here have given me additional ideas to consider.