Καλωσορίστε στην Αθήνα or Welcome to Athens!

Well, we made it, and what’s more, so did our luggage! Our delayed Malaysian Airways flight from Perth got us into KL with less than 45 minutes to spare in which to get our connecting Oman Air flight to Muscat. Thankfully, the pilot of MH126 decided to stick to the flight plan this time, and not take us on any ‘mystery’ tour. Regarding the flight, MH business class, with flat beds, is based on the weird cabin configuration that JAL (Japan Airways) uses, which probably accounts for how narrow the seats were. Now neither YM nor myself are what you’d exactly call ‘wide in the beam’, especially YM, but we both found them quite cramped. Probably ok if you are an average little bloke from Japan, but Malaysian Airways certainly wouldn’t want to use this same cabin layout on any flight from say, Hawaii to the USA….talk about a tight fit….. and this was in business class. Service was just ok, as the ‘hosties’, sorry, the Flight Attendants, seemed to be just as tired as we were at 3 am in the morning, and anyway, all I wanted was to try out those narrow flat beds and try to get some sleep. Shortly after take-off they came around though, and offered everyone their listed ‘speciality’… Chicken or Beef Satays. She actually woke me to ask if I wanted any, but I declined, wanting only to get some much needed shut-eye. “No thank you” I said, “ I’m not hungry” but she wasn’t going to accept this explanation. “You should try, really delicious, why not”. “No thanks” I reply, but she insisted I try the speciality of the house….or in this case, the airline. Maybe she was trying to fill a quota, or couldn’t believe that anyone could possibly refuse to try the national dish of Malaysia.

“Chicken or Beef, which you like best” she continued. “Do you have any pork satay?” I mischievously asked. “No, no have pok, have beef or chicken” Anyway, simply not to risk offending her I relented, and said “in that case I’ll have one of each” so helping fill her quota, and also the economy of Malaysia, which obviously relies on just how many satay sticks are eaten each day.

Look, I’ve eaten better satay’s in my time, and also far worse ones, so considering I was 10,000 feet high in an aircraft, I wasn’t hungry, and I very was tired (and a little stressed), they weren’t too bad….. and I made someone happy.

Waking up 30 minutes before arrival in KL, the only thing I wanted now, apart from more sleep, was a cappucino, but disappointingly, the coffee machine was out of order, so instead settled for a cup of warm Nescafé instant, which believe it or not, was the only drink that I consumed on the whole six hour flight.

KL airport, especially compared to Perth’s airport, was madness at 9 in the morning, and add to that the complete lack of information as to which gate we should head for, quite confusing. I’d been told earlier, by one of the cabin crew not to worry about missing the connection, as they definitely would not leave without us provided our luggage was also aboard. “Luggage always stay with passenger, passenger always stay with luggage….always must stay together” was the cryptic way he put it. Well thanks for that reassurance mate, but I’m pretty sure that our luggage is not travelling thru the terminal as fast as we are right now, and I’m not even that confident that we are heading in the right direction. We are though, as it turns out, and more by luck than anything else, find ourselves at the correct gate, where boarding has already commenced, so we’re almost the last to board the plane, an Oman Air A330 flight, WY822 to Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman.

Wow, now this is more like it…..compared to the MH cramped cabin, this one is SPACIOUS….. and Luxe….and so comfortable. Service is top class, no complaints at all ( not even about lack of PJ’s, this is a daylight flight after all), and pretty soon we are taking off, and relaxing with the first of many glasses of French bubbles.

I’d have to rate Oman Air, on this particular leg, as at least on par with Etihad and Qatar, though I think Emirates still leads the field.

The terminal at Muscat is opulent, brand new and gleaming, and my opinion is that’s it’s even better than any of the other Middle Eastern terminals like Doha, Abu Dhabi or even Dubai. ….. and the service and food in the lounge is quite outstanding….I think I’ll travel again with Oman.

Unfortunately, our next leg, from Muscat to Athens is with one of their narrow-bodied jets, a Boeing 737-800, ( their new MAX8’s having been grounded, remember) and business class still has the old fashioned type of reclining seats, in a two by two config….. no flat beds here.

Never mind, service was still good and the champers still as cold and bubbly as before, so what’s to complain about.

We arrived at Athens Airport about 40 minutes ahead of schedule (how did that happen?) and YM and I, the first off the aircraft, make our way to the Passport Control. In past visits, it has sometimes taken as long as 30 minutes in a queue ( not a concept that Greeks seem to grasp that well) to get thru the immigation check, but this time we entered a completely deserted area, with not one other passenger in site, so had our passports stamped in no time. A few seconds later, the first of the pax to get there, we were at the baggage carousel, where to our great surprise, and overwhelming relief, both of our suitcases were making their way towards us….. un-bloody-believable! From disembarking the plane to picking up our luggage took less than 15 minutes!!!!

We sailed thru Customs, probably because there were no Customs Officials on duty, or at least, none that we could see, and so arrived outside the arrivals area, where Alexandros, our Welcome Pick-ups driver, was nowhere to be seen, but a quick phone call to him and he assured us he was just a few minutes away, not believing that we’d made it out so quickly. (A tip for you! If you ever travel to Greece, make sure you book a taxi beforehand, using Welcome Pickups site…. they are reliable and safe, and no possibility of getting ripped-off by some dishonest cabbie waiting outside the terminal….yes, believe it or not, there are a few dodgy taxicab drivers in Athens)

Just half an hour later, (Alexandros was a formula one enthusiast!) we arrive at our hotel in the centre of Piraeus, the Theoxenia Palace. Why Piraeus instead of Athens? Well we have an early morning ferry to catch on Thursday, to Koufonisi Island and this hotel is close by to the port.

After a quick freshen up, we go for a stroll around the town, and on the way back to the hotel stop at a small, but inviting looking local taverna, where the tables and chairs are lined up along the pavement outside. Still busy, and still receiving customers at 11pm at night, not really hungry we settle for a simple Koriatiki Salata ( greek salad) chips and bread, plus a healthy dose of second- hand cigarette smoke, all washed down by a half a kilo ( a half litre) jug of Piraeus’s best house wine! Just perfect, it really feels great to be back in Greece once again!

The narrowest bed in the air, on the wide-bodied A330

This is more like it!
Service with a smile…
We’re not fancy, but we are cheap…

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2 thoughts on “Καλωσορίστε στην Αθήνα or Welcome to Athens!

  1. Hi Lynley and Tom,
    Always a pleasure to follow your trips around the world. Love reading your blogs. Pity Gweneth and I never had the chance to catch up with you once again. If in Sydney or passing through, please contact me. Plenty of rooms and plenty of wine. Regards, Chris


  2. Welcome back, you two! Presume you got your ferry before the meltemia closed down the islands? Big question….have you maybe worked out a way to watch Rugby World Cup on TV here?? (just to try and spot Billy the Kid in the crowd, of course!). Polla filia!!!


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