06 October 2008

BA vs Olympic on ATH to LHR economy flights

Over the years I have travelled many times between Athens and London using a variety of airlines but mainly BA and Olympic Airways. Given the stark differences I thought about presenting a review of this flight in comparison.


BA has been consistently more punctual over the years with very few delays in service. Olympic on the contrary has adopted a policy of announcing flights sooner than they actually depart to avoid passenger lateness. The consistently “late” departures creating the feeling that the plane is always delayed. And quite rightly so. Get a grip Olympic.

Leg room

There is a clear advantage of Olympic Airways legroom in economy. The Olympic Airbus A340 has not been adjusted to accommodate more seats so the flight is comfortable enough even if you more than 6.5 foot tall. Similar legroom can be found on premium economy and business class on the British Airways planes.


On a morning flight BA usually offers a plastic wrap with a small sandwich, small muffin of some sort, some water and orange juice. Olympic (on my latest flight) had a breakfast consisting of an omelette, sausage and mushrooms with a piece of bread. The steward came round for a second time with what appeared to be warm croissants. Yes, this is exactly what I though. Warm croissants on economy class? Checked my ticket again in case I was in the wrong seat. Butter, marmalade and soft cheese to compliment the treat. A full size chocolate muffin was last on the menu. A selection of drinks was offered twice and three times we were approached for tea and coffee.


BA usually offers standard live flight information on economy coaches plus radio music and news channels which is good. Olympic had a screen on every seat (with nothing on it) and only offered flight information on two central screens (which I had no visibility of). Not nice. However there was audio channels offering a good selection of music.

Airline staff

The Olympic Airways stewards were very polite and overall you thought that this was some kind of premium economy service (to say the least). BA staff is somewhat, should I say ‘reserved’. No, that is not the right word, try rude. It is very difficult to order a second glass of water without getting the famous death stare. This culture is something that has baffled me about BA all these years.


As a last minute booking I paid a total of 166 Euros (one way). BA was charging over £300 for a late booking seat in economy. How are my dates of choice always more expensive on their site I do not know. Would not require a huge amount of trickery though to price up a chosen date, would it?


Ok, I know what you are going to say. British Airways in spite of all criticism is an established and profitable airline with a good overall record.
Olympic on the other hand is a struggling, state-supported money loser that the Greek government has been trying to dispose for years.
If this review is anything to go by, regarding the status of these airlines, you have to admit that good service, food and legroom plus an exceptionally low price are not good signs of profitability for a modern airline. Unfortunately money in the travel/airline industry is made at the expense of the consumer, who is forced to cramp in tiny seats with no legroom, eat rubbish food and pay a premium. That is life though.

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