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USA -- Athens -- Santorini: How much time to leave myself for layover when switching airlines?

Hi all,

I am traveling to Greece in June 2022 and need advice on how much time to give myself during a layover in Athens when switching airlines!

I will be flying from Atlanta, USA on Delta Airlines and will land in Athens at 11:20AM. I would then like to fly into Santorini from Athens. I was planning on buying a seperate ticket from Athens to Santorini through a European airline like Volotea or Sky Express (Delta does not even offer an itinerary from Atlanta to Santorini so I actually have to do this).

I am wondering.... when I deplane in Athens, can I just stay in the Athens airport and go to the gate for my other airline and fly to Santorini, and do passport control/immigration at the Santorini airport (I figure if I can do that, the normal 1.5 hour layover is fine)? Or will I have to deplane in Athens, go through passport control in Athens, re-enter international security, and then fly to Santorini? If that's the case - I would guess I need something more like a 2.5 or 3 hour layover.

We only have carry on bags so don't have to check luggage.

Thanks in advance!

Posted by
1642 posts

We did this in 2018. You have to exit the international terminal and walk up some stairs to the domestic one. It does not take very long to get out of the international terminal. But you have to then check your bag to fly to Santorini, as the planes are not big enough for a standard carry on. You then go through security and go to your gate.

Our flight was 90 minutes after arrival and we had enough time even to get something to eat after we went through security. We flew on Aegean Air and bought the somewhat more expensive ticket which allowed you to rebook.

Posted by
8412 posts

Beth-
It sounds like you had a flight on a Q-400. Did they not have a cart beside the plane to leave your luggage when you boarded and the let you pick it up from a cart when you deplaned?

It does appear some flights are on a-320 type planes and others on the Q400, which have bins that are much smaller than a mainline airliner ( e.g., a320/737 and larger).

The luggage issue may be affected by the type of plane used for the ATH-JTR leg.

I only flew in/out of ATH so have no idea on transferring there, or passport control processing efficiency.

Posted by
3039 posts

Delta does not even offer an itinerary from Atlanta to Santorini so I
actually have to do this.

You could book a ticket direct to Santorini from Atlanta, via Paris with Air France and via Frankfurt with Lufthansa seems like the two one stop options you have.

I am wondering.... when I deplane in Athens, can I just stay in the
Athens airport and go to the gate for my other airline and fly to
Santorini, and do passport control/immigration at the Santorini
airport (I figure if I can do that, the normal 1.5 hour layover is
fine)?

No. That would be a massive hole in the border to allow almost anyone to enter the Schengen area so of course that won't be allowed. You will need to go through immigration to get from the non-Schengen area to the Schengen area of the airport.

But you have to then check your bag to fly to Santorini, as the planes
are not big enough for a standard carry on. You then go through
security and go to your gate.

That depends on the flight, some are operated by A320s, other by smaller aircraft.

Posted by
1642 posts

I had to check my luggage in before going through security so no cart.

And you are right, there may be some planes big enough but ours were not. We flew to Santorini from Athens and to Athens from Naxos and had to check luggage on both flights. I think it is better to plan the time to check luggage than to be surprised by it.

Posted by
796 posts

I recommend checking with other airlines to see if you can fly from Atlanta to Santorini with a layover somewhere in Europe. So your flight itinerary will be on one ticket. And you don't have to worry about whether or not you have enough time in Athens to change planes. We are going to Greece in May, and we are flying directly from Boston to Santorini with a layover in Zurich. Seems much easier to me than what you are doing.

Posted by
2794 posts

Catherine, your plan is good. Stick with that Delta nonstop flight overnight from Atlanta to Athens ... do not be lured by the prospect of a change in Europe in order to fly from Europe to Santorini. Here's why: all the nonstops from N. America arrive on time in Atlanta, because even if they're delayed on take-off, they have alll that looong flying over Atlantic to make it up. Most of the changes in Europe airports -- Zurich, Frankfort, Heathrow, Amsterdam etc etc -- involve at least 2 - 3 hr layover, and don't take off until mid-morning or later... thus are subject to runway traffic delays. The change-over in ATH airport is easy because it's a much smaller place -- almost all departures involve just the main building.... a very simple process - a 2- hr layover is plenty, especially since u will not have to wait at the baggage carousel.

Yes, prepare to check your bag for a domestic flight on Aegean or Sky Express --- their larger planes can take carry-ons for the overhead bin, but you can't count on that equipment being used for y our particular flight. It's no big deal, the check-in line will be short . The reasons that I say 2 hrs are: • Covid check-ups will still be around, slowing up the process • In recent years in the AM there have sometimes been a jumbo jet from China or India arriving in late morning, which lengthens the passport-control line wait from 20 mins to 30-40. As others have said, you can't skip the security process, even if u change planes in Europe. BUt everything is easier in Athens than in many bigger European Airports -- Heathrow can be hellish, and Charles de Gaulle is even worse due to staff attitude. Stick w. Athens.

Posted by
2917 posts

Ideally, two hours is enough time to make the connection to Santorini. I've done it in less time, but it's a risk.

Posted by
964 posts

In summary of the thoughts already presented.
Since you are flying with carry on when you land you can go direct to passport control which means you will be one of the first passengers from your flight to arrive. As Janet said the line should be fairly short however the last time we did that transfer, 4 transatlantic flights all arrived at the same time and the line up was long. It does move fairly fast no more than 30 minutes.

Once you are through passport control find the exit door. Go through the nothing to declare door and you are in the main area of the terminal. As Beth says its just a few steps up to the departures terminal.

If you have booked your connecting flight with Aegean you can check in 48 hours before the flight. That means you are checked in and do not have to line up. If you have to check your bags there are machines when you can enter your information and get luggage tags. When you have done that go to the drop off point and put your bags on the machine and away you go.

Next stop is security. You will have your gate number so go to that security station. Athens airport has a good number of screening stations. We have never had to wait more than 5 minutes to get through security. Thats probably because mid morning is not the busiest time at the airport.

I believe Sky Express operates the same way but we have not used them for a Santorini connection. Be aware both of these airlines operate out of the main terminal. If you book with other airlines chances are they operate out of a different terminal which apparently adds 15 minutes to the transfer.

We have always had time to stop for a drink at a bar while we wait for the connecting flight. 2 hours has always been plenty of time but at Lee says it should be enough. Stuff can happen.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you all for the extremely helpful and thorough replies!

We are going to stick with the overnight direct flight from Atlanta to Athens through Delta, buy the European airline ticket that's cheap, and give ourselves a two hour layover (looking at the 1:15pm flight). I agree with the others that I'd love to avoid a layover in another European city (speaking from experience that my CDG layovers have been nightmares...) and do it in the relatively small Athens airport.

We are efficient travelers in our 20s so I feel good about being able to do it fairly quickly - the extra context of what to expect is helpful. And very worse case scenario that we miss the Santorini flight, we'll just buy another very cheap one way and catch another flight to Santorini not long after since they offer so many in the summer!

Thanks again all-

Posted by
1642 posts

I went through CDG last year. Took 2 hours from deplaning to gate of connecting flight. Athens is a piece of cake in comparison.

Posted by
964 posts

I believe Aegean sells a slightly more expensive fare that includes an option to change to a later flight at no charge. You might want to consider that option.

Posted by
929 posts

Sky Express may offer lower prices.

Just make sure of what you are getting with your ticket regardless of the airlines.

Posted by
2678 posts

I’m doing this in 2022, also so am interested in these experiences.

I do not want to fly to another country before going to Athens right now. With shifting pandemic rules and test/entry time requirements, I feel it is just smarter to limit to one country, or at least not complicate things with a country just for a layover. Since my trip is to only Greece, I’m not interested in learning and dealing with British/German/French/wherever rules.