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Layover time between Athens and Santorini

Hi! My 15 year old son and myself will be flying from Washington State to Athens. We fly into Athens at 4:25pm and it was suggested to go straight to the islands vs the next day. It appears that we can stay in the Athens airport for the flight to Santorini unless I read that wrong. So, how long will it take us to get through the airport and to the next flight? How early do we need to be at our new flight? How long of a layover do we need? There is a flight at 5:15pm which is only 50 minutes or the next flight is 7:40pm which is over 3 hours of a wait. (This is Aegean, I haven't checked other airlines yet as that's the only one I know of so I know there might be other options)
I guess the question is, how long should I have between flights?
Do you have a recommended airline?
Any other tips?

Thank you :)

Posted by
1064 posts

Well I can attest to the fact it is a very long flight sequence to get to Athens from the west coast. It took us a full 24 hours of travel in June this year.

Experienced travellers to Greece often suggest you get out to your first island on your day of arrival in Athens. It is way better to begin your trip on your first island than spending that night in Athens. If you arrive Santorini in the evening it has the effect of giving you several hours the next morning to start your Santorini experience. If you waited overnight in Athens you will lose a substantial chunk of the next morning just getting to Santorini and then transferring to your hotel.

The two airlines I would trust are Aegean/Olympic or Sky Express. They are both Greek airlines and have good reputations.

You need 2 hours to make a connection. Most of the time we have done it in an hour and a half but 2 hours is better. Don't even think about trying to make the 50 minute connection.

Here is what you can expect in Athens airport.
I am assuming that your Santorini flight is a second ticket. So you will have to gather your bags then proceed to passport control. If you have booked your transatlantic flight on a Star Alliance airline on a single ticket on Aegean your luggage will be checked through to Santorini.

If you fly Sky express you will need to pick up your bags and then check them at the Sky Express counter. If possible try to just bring carry on luggage.

So pick up your bags go directly to Passport control. The longest we have waited there was 20 minutes. Most of the time it is a quick process. When your passport is stamped proceed to the exit door. There is no further checks just walk through the door marked Nothing to Declare. You are now on arrivals level.

Go up one floor (stairs, Elevator or Escalator) You are now on departures level. Drop off your bags at the Appropriate airline counter and look for Security. I forgot to mention both Sky express and Aegean allow you to print your boarding pass 48 hours before your flight. You do that and you will have the boarding pass before your first flight takes off in the US.

As I recall there was a place where you can use a machine to print your luggage tags and there was a drop off machine nearby so you may not have to go to the airline counter to drop off your bags.

On our return trip in June the airport was very busy and crowded. There were hundreds of people in the security line. Athens airport is also very efficient. They have people stationed in the area who direct you to the next available security desk. It took us 19 minutes to get through security. Considering the size of the crowd that was remarkable.

Now find you departure lounge. You will probably have sufficient time to have your first Mythos while you wait for the connecting flight.

Posted by
9144 posts

The 50 min time frame is a 'no go'. The 3+ hrs could be at risk if you have an experience like my niece had last Thurs.
She had a SEA-CDG-ATH schedule. The morning of the flight she was notified the plane that was to be the flight from SEA was so late it would give her a 15 min transfer time at CDG. The revised routing was SEA-SFO-MUC-ATH. Not sure how much later she arrived in ATH than the original schedule and her luggage is still 'in transit'

Depending on when your trip is, the current airport chaos could be a factor to include in your plans.

Posted by
2952 posts

IN my experience -- and it may have changed since my last trip in June 2019 -- I did not pick up my bags FIRST. On getting off plane, we hustled directly to the Passport Control lines.... and Stanbr is right, the wait is about 20 minutes (except 10 mins longer once, when a jumbo jet from China arrived same time as my AA flight, not usual). After that 20 min, we walked to Baggage Claim, and at that time our flight's bags were just beginning to circle the carousel... so a faster passport line would just have resulted in more stand-and-wait by the carousel.

In stanbr's detailed & useful walk-through, the next step is escalator up to Departure level.... One stop en route to escalator might be a quick stop at ATM to get some Euros. PLEASE google & read precautions about this. Some ATMS charge more, and you should NEVER say yes to "dynamic conversion" -- This just tells you how much in your Home Currency (in your case, Dollars) is b being withdrawn.... but that swindle-service results in TWO charges. JUst say NO, and request X amount in Euros. BTW, if you don't want to get stuck with all BIG bills, ask for an odd amount, like €340. Then it's onward - upward to your domestic flight checkin.

Posted by
2952 posts

Vintagelove, the 3+ hours may be a much-needed time period... IF you also are required to make a transfer at another European airport such as Frankfurt, Amsterdam etc etc. From many travel forums, we hear about sometimes-chaotics situations these days at major European Airports -- due to sudden cancellations resulting in panicked crowds pushing to get rebooked, and very short-staffed airline counters, baggage handling and security lines. I hope your flight is nonstop from somewhere in N. America , but -- if not -- that you'll be on a less-trafficky day of the week.

Posted by
1064 posts

I just conferred with my wife. Janet is correct we did passport control then got our bags. My bad.

Posted by
46 posts

This all sounds incredibly hectic. I had thought we should stay in Athens on our arrival night, and take the early fast ferry to Santorini in the morning. Does anyone see a down side to that? Any thoughts on the best place to stay on our arrival night so we are convenient to the ferry early the next morning? (We do get in around noon, so it would be great to be able to see something in Athens that afternoon . . . ).

Thank you!!

Posted by
991 posts

I would like to make a suggestion that does not seem to be popular on the travel forums. But it worked for us this past May. We live in MA so we fly out of Boston. Our first destination in Greece was Santorini. We did not do what everyone else suggests. Just seems too hectic to me. We flew on United/Swiss from Boston to Santorini with a layover in Zurich. It was so easy. About a 3 - 4 hour layover. Not hectic or crowded at all. So all our flights were on one ticket. If our flight out of Boston was delayed, and we missed our flight from Zurich to Santorini, the airline would be responsible for putting us on the next available flight to Santorini. And we didn't have to worry about our luggage until we arrived in Santorini.

Some people might suggest you should avoid trying to transfer somewhere in Europe, but we have been doing this for years. We didn't have any problems last summer when we flew to Marseilles (during the height of Covid strains), and we didn't have any problems in May.

Just a suggestion. Not sure if you have made your airline reservations yet.

Posted by
33 posts

Thanks everyone for the help with the timing and also the tips! Very helpful and I have taken note on all of this. I have already bought my tickets to/from Athens so I can't just fly straight to Santorini but now I will know to do that for future travels. (I am still new to traveling abroad) :)

Posted by
22 posts

Has anyone used the fast pass lane for security that you can purchase with Aegean flights? If so, did that help? We have a 2 hour layover after arrival from the East Coast US (direct) to Athens and then to Santorini (not on Star Alliance, so we’ll need to pick up and drop off bags). Thanks!

Posted by
107 posts

MS1 I used it 2 weeks ago with Sky Express. It really was fast. At least when I used it. There was literally no line. You'll see when entering the security area there is a sign for the fast lane. You enter the lane, scan your boarding pass and then move over to the x-ray belt where you put your bags through while you walk through the metal detector. The only thing that slowed me down was I was selected for a "random" explosives swab test lol.

Posted by
22 posts

Thanks, we paid for it (wasn’t a lot). We still may have a bag to check, so less sure how much it will help with total time.

Posted by
203 posts

We just used sky express on 7/3 and it did include fast lane but I am not sure we used it. We had been up over 24 hours at that point. But we did scan our boarding pass and did security, very fast. We had scheduled 2 and a half hour layover. We landed on time and went through immigration and and then collected our bags. Rechecked bags upstairs and got boarding passes. We could have made an hour connection but you just never know. 28 hours for us to arrive in Santorini