For this week’s installment of Matthew’s Meal of the Week I recall a soothing Greek lunch on Olympic Airlines after an expensive flight mishap.
It was 2008 and I was on a backpacking trip around the world. I purchased a cheap ticket from Istanbul to Athens on Olympic Airlines using STA Travel, which actually offered a great student discount on the flight.
But upon checking in at Athens, the agents demanded my paper ticket. Paper what? I informed her that I booked it online to which she replied, “You have no e-ticket.” Apparently, I only had a reservation even though my credit card had been charged. STA Travel never indicated I needed a paper ticket. I had bought the ticket just days before while in South Africa–not like there was a lot of time for a paper ticket…
This was back in the day of super-expensive international roaming but my HP iPaq cell phone could not even pick up a single inside Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. The check-in agent directed me over to the ticketing desk where the agent there allowed me to use her landline phone to call STA Travel.
Despicably, STA Travel claimed they could not help. Thus, I was left with a decision. Go to Athens as planned — where I had a connection to London the next morning — or just abandon it? I asked what the walk-up fare was for the ticket. $400…
I was 21 and wanted to see Athens, even if it was just for a day. Little did I know that I would be back many times over the next decade. So I negotiated and got the price down to $300. Still more than double what I initially paid, but cheaper than a walk-up ticket on Turkish (I checked that too) and it got me on a plane 20 minutes later.
So now imagine this: a 21-year-old making $13/hr at the time just dropped $300 on a ticket for 1hr flight. No lounge access and there wasn’t time anyway to buy food.
We board the flight — an old ATR-72 — using rear stairs and I settle down in my seat, feeling like an idiot for not somehow knowing that I should have had a paper ticket. My stomach was growling but I figured there would not be any food on a 334-mile flight.
After takeoff a FA came down the aisle (galley in back of plane) offering beverages and handing each passenger a blue plastic box.
There would be a meal! And maybe it was because I was just feeling bad or very hungry, but I thought it was a great snack. Years later, I still remember that flight and that meal.
A meat latke, two strips of chicken breast, a slice of cheese, a leaf of lettuce, and a slice of cheese with bread. Not much, but it made for an excellent sandwich. Hot tea and superb rolled baklava for dessert.
Olympic Airlines is now defunct (resurrected under the Olympic Air name as a subsidiary of Aegean) but my one and only flight on the former Greek flag carrier featured good airline food.