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Latest Travel News for Visitors to Symi by Andy Ward

Symi Visitor Travel blog

Change at Athens – part two

Continuing with our guide to Athens airport for connecting passengers.
There are two gaps in the line of checkin desks which allow access to the shopping and catering area behind them, and also to the actual departure gates. The central area is still landside (no boarding pass required). This is useful if you have a long connection, no boarding pass for your onward journey, and the checkin desk isn’t open yet – though this is more likely on your return journey where some airlines only open their checkin desks 2-3 hours before departure. Because Olympic and Aegean use single queuing systems, and allow on line checkin from Athens, you are likely to be able to offload your bag and /or pick up a boarding card easily on your way to Rhodes.
The landside area contains two coffee shops/sandwich bars/pastry shops – one Grigoris, one Everest, for connoisseurs of Greek food chains, on the wall behind the checkin, along with a newspaper/book shop, and various other shops. On the opposite area is a food court. To the right is the main entrance with counters supplying pizza, filled baguettes, pasta, Greek specialities, a self service salad bar, coffee machines etc. When you’ve made your choice carry on round to the tills to pay, and on to the seating area. This is shared with a cafe bar that you get to by taking the left hand entrance instead of the right hand one from the main hallway. On the same wall are more shops to either side of the food court, and to the left are lifts and escalators to a mezzanine floor. This has a waiter service restaurant (The Olive Tree – no connection with the Symi business of the same name) and a MacDonalds with a good view of the aircraft. The mezzanine extends across as a bridge over the checkin area creating space for a couple of museum displays, one of archaeological finds made during construction of the airport, and the other dedicated to the Greek statesman Eleftherios Venizelos, after whom the airport is named. Various temporary displays can also be found in this area, and there are stairs back to checkin as well.
Back at the landside area behind the checkin, walk left for access to the B gates, the domestic and intra-Schengen area. You will have to show your boarding pass to get into the area, but according to the airport authorities you can still access it with an A-gate boarding pass, to get to the shops, some of which are different to those in the A-gate area. I have managed to do this sometimes, other times security don’t seem to understand teh airport’s official policy. You can’t do the reverse, and enter the A-gate area ( to the right of the central landside area) after the boarding pass checkpoint, because you come up against the passport control booths almost immediately.
The B-zone airside (after boarding pass control) has more shops, including a better bookshop, the usual selection of Travel Value shops (no duty-free for journeys within the EU) and three cafes selling drinks of all kinds plus cheese pies etc. It also has a reasonable amount of seating, and five executive lounges (see Lounging About, the next post of this blog)
The A-zone is similar, with fewer shops. In theory you can leave the B-zone and return to the central area if you wish, and then enter again later. This doesn’t apply to the A-zone because you will have officially left the country.
Athens airport has the inevitable hand-baggage xray machines and walk-through metal detectors, like all European airports. Less usually, there are separate security checkpoints for each group of gates, and the enforcement of the rules on liquids is rigorous. You need to make sure you have enough time to pass through security and get to the gate before the time boarding is due to start. It can be a long walk to some of the gates as well. Low numbers are nearest the centre of the airport. A-gates numbered in the 30s are in the satellite, allow extra time to get there, and B-gates numbered in the 20s are down one floor and mean you will be taken to the aircraft by bus. This is common, but not universal, for flights to/from Rhodes.
When shopping, if you buy any alcohol or perfumes make sure they are packed in the special tamperproof bags with the receipt showing, or they will be confiscated at security. Bottled water will also be taken off you, along with coffees, frappes, soft drinks etc. I’d recommend also asking for the special bags if you buy soap or cheese, apparently these items look a lot like plastic explosive to the X-ray machine operators and you will get a hand search of your bag, which causes you delay. If you have anything in the special bags, including items bought at other EU airports, put them separately in the plastic trays, not inside other bags, to avoid this.
There are toilet facilities throughout the airport, even in the gate areas, kept very clean, as indeed is the whole terminal.
Once you’ve escaped from security, and put everything back where you want it to be, find the actual gate you want – remember that blocks of gates share security points. Find a seat, and wait for boarding to start. Of course you may be lucky, and find boarding is under way, but they aren’t yet screaming out for you. It is normal for the disabled and families with young children to be boarded first, or at least separately. For your journey to Rhodes you will have an assigned seat number, so there isn’t that much point in rushing to the front as soon as boarding starts anyway, especially if you are going by bus to the aircraft as the last on the bus may well be first off again. When returning home EasyJet, and probably some other low-cost carriers, don’t assign seat numbers, you have people who have paid for priority boarding, and then everyone else, maybe in order of when you checked in if you’re lucky.