While many have already booked their flights to soak up the coming Greek summer, for late-starters, there may just be time, if you’re quick, to get the last of the earlybird fares that are out there, which could save you $500 on a seat.
The choice of airlines flying one-stop to Athens has reduced this year, with Thai Airways cancelling its service into the Greek capital. Almost certainly, Thai’s withdrawal is a result of the effects of strike action in Greece in 2010 that saw their profit margins on the route fall to unacceptable levels.
Jacqui Preketes, managing director of Melbourne’s Touchdown Tours, told Neos Kosmos that with Singapore Airlines having changed their routing to Athens (adding Istanbul as a transit point) – going via the Middle East continues to provide Australian travellers with the quickest and cheapest option to get to Greece.
“If you’re looking at the most direct routes, your Arabic carriers are pretty much the only option – that’s Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad, ” says Jaqui.
“The Greek market is very price-driven and the frequent flyer programs don’t have a hold on what we call the ‘VFR’ market – that is ‘visiting family and relatives’.
“What we’re finding is that Qatar Airways is becoming popular along with Etihad – that’s because of their short transit times – around two to two and half hours at their respective hubs in Doha or Abu Dhabi.”
Touchdown Tours’ chief added that whilst Emirates was still pulling in customers, the five hour transit in Dubai as well as its two-stop service from Australia to Greece, made some shy away from Emirates’ legendary service.
With few customers on the Athens route using stopovers to break the journey, Jacqui Preketes says that older travellers in particular should consider the option.
“Our experience is that in the Greek market, customers are rarely using stopovers, and that’s a real pity because it makes the journey a bit easier and helps with jet lag.
“You’re looking at spending over 15 hours in the air, and you are still not there, and you could do a one night stopover starting from as little as $200 per person, including accommodation and meals.”
Given that booking flights directly on the Web has transformed how people plan their holidays, Jaqui Preketes says that the advantages of booking with a traditional travel agent, can still outweigh the convenience of booking yourself online.
“We give travel advice, based on years of experience and knowledge, but that comes at a price, and we can get flights occasionally lower than on the Internet, or the same fare. The web is a great tool to get knowledge, but my advice is don’t rely on it too much,” says Jaqui.
“People should remember that the travel agent is a travel professional; they’re not here just to book flights and then leave you on your own if something goes wrong.
“We’ve had so many examples – the volcano in Iceland when so many flights were disrupted – the Egypt crisis – when DFAT had to go in and help people who had booked online: passengers who had booked with a travel agent were uplifted immediately, and that’s because the agent got straight onto it.”
Whichever way you’re booking and with flights filling up, there isn’t a better time to ensure you’re spot on that Aegean beach this Australian winter.