Updated: Jul 28, 2020
Delta was originally to resume its seasonal JFK-Athens flights on July 2, but we understand that the first flight of the now "deferred" summer season is now scheduled to depart from New York City on July 27 instead.
The equipment used will be a Boeing 767-300 and the scheduled departure time is 5:15 PM New York time with an arrival time in Athens of 10AM.
The July 2 date itself was a reversal of an earlier suspension of flights due to the pandemic and was first reported on the website of the American Embassy in Athens. By the same token, with most non-E.U. citizens still not able to enter Greece until June 15, American Airlines has pushed out the resumption of Chicago-Athens flights to (egads!) August 5. Those flights, presumably using the 787 Dreamliner, were originally scheduled to resume June 4 (!)
Airlines are obviously taking their cue from individual governments in this fluid situation, which doesn't exactly travelers' lives any easier in terms of making plans. In the case of Greece, thus far flights originating in just 29 countries have the clearance to land in Greek airports (Athens International, for starters) and the United States and U.K. are not on that list—itself put out by something called the European Aviation Safety Agency. By pushing its departures out to the end of July, or almost, Delta may be hedging its bet in case the U.S. is still not on the list by the beginning of July.
There will be no flights on United from Newark to Athens this summer, but Emirates will pick up the slack with EWR-ATH service ramping up from July (although a spokesperson would not get back to us with details). We are a big fan of Delta, and we'd like to think that our Delta cocktail napkin campaign to restore the Athens-JFK flights helped. Okay, it probably didn't but...
We also like Delta because they had the best in-flight magazine, Delta Sky.
And we applaud Delta for its policy of blocking middle seats, which just seems like the right thing to do. This comes as the Embassy in Athens has "received reports that recent international flights arrived full (middle seats used) with minimal social distancing." It's regrettable that anyone in the travel industry would put economic considerations above passenger well-being, and Montreal-based IATA which has been pressuring the airlines should be held to greater account by the FAA and Congress.
Strange times for the airlines. One knock-on effect of the pandemic that in certain quarters has only just begin to sink in is how much the world has shrunk in just a few short weeks. And when the cables snap on a suspension bridge all at once how hard it is indeed to lift it all up again, especially—to paraphrase The New York Times' Gail Collins—for an industry where the basic business model involves squishing as many people as humanly possible into round-the-clock tiny spaces.
Don't forget that airlines were complicit in the crisis: too many of them (not all) kowtowed to business class and front-of-cabin passengers and so-called "points-and-miles" travelers while throwing economy passengers under the Airbus, so to speak. Boeing sacrificed safety for short term gain with the two 737 MAX 8 crashes, which didn't have to happen because those planes didn't even need to be in the air. And across the board basic hygiene aboard planes just wasn't happening, transforming them, as Senators Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) recently said, "into a major vector for Covid-19".
Even before the crisis there weren't that many non-stop flights from North American gateways to Athens. And while Athens has been positioning itself as a city-break destination for some time, such targeted marketing was more geared to European travelers. Paris and London have long been within the realm of weekend-ish travel for well-heeled New Yorkers, but most Americans who come to Greece tend to spend a few days visiting the major monuments and museums and then part ways with the city for a more leisurely-paced week or so in the Greek islands. And who wouldn't? There is after all only one Mykonos, only one Santorini...
Hence the popularity of the seasonal non-stops to Athens, mainly from the New York area. Those flights are very convenient for those who don't have the time or patience for making those sometimes complicated connections in British and European airports that in normal times are busy and pretty expensive, too.
Are you still planning to travel to Greece this summer? Have a look at a few of our favorite hotels in Greece.