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Monday 22 January 2024

Flying Sky Express Airbus A320NEO From Athens to Thessaloniki!

 Welcome to my first Greece domestic flight trip report! 

This is Sky Express A320neo registered SX-GRE, bound for Heraklion. 


Only 2 airlines operate this domestic route, Athens to Thessaloniki, they are Sky Express and Aegean Airlines. So I don't have much choice here, I decided to book with Sky Express from Athens to Thessaloniki and on the return route with Aegean Airlines, as the Star Alliance airline operates the A320CEO version, I can do a comparison between the new and old varient of the airline's A320 aircraft. What makes me decide on Thessaloniki? Well based on my knowledge of this city thanks to social media and Airlinerworld which I used to read regularly when I was younger. Somehow I booked too many days in this city and by the 3rd day out of 5, I was feeling slightly bored. My recommendation is 3 days the most you need to explore this city. 

Curious about this airline? Well, here is my experience with this airline, both on ground and in-flight. Without further ado, let's begin!

Booking with Sky Express

Booking with this airline was straightforward and I used the website to do so. Unfortunately this airline does not have mobile app version. What I dislike about the airline's website is the seat map, I had to use either seatmap.com or aerolopa.com to have a better understanding of the cabin. 

The airline doesn't offer boarding pass for Apple wallet, only the email version (below) and you probably need to print it out or use a tablet to scan the barcode machine in order to board the aircraft. I decided to collect the boarding pass at the airport instead. 

SkyExpress's business class features the standard seats with the middle seat blocked out, so no point paying double for this short flight. 

This is the seat map of my A320neo aircraft. 

Doesn't this remind you of the old classic brick game on the game console? 

You need to click the box to check the seat number and fees (applicable for seat selection). Not user-friendly. 

I paid for my seat as I chose seat 7A for a good window view. 

Overall I find booking with this airline to be quite basic but at least functionable. The lack of mobile app is not a big deal but what is more important is the ability to view and manage my booking which I was able to do so on the website. 

About Sky Express

Sky Express was established in 2005, set up its headquarter in Heraklion International Airport. It operates both cargo and passenger transport. For the cargo side, Sky Express aircargo was established at a later date, joining venture with Finaval Group and established routes between Europe and the Far East. With a fleet of Airbus A320neo, A321neo, ATR-42-500, ATR-72-500 and ATR-72-600, the airline operates 23 aircraft at the moment and flies on both domestic and international routes out of Athens (ATH), Heraklion (HER) and Thessaloniki (SKG) airports. 

About Athens International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos"

Athens International Airport is the largest international airport in Greece, serving the city of Athens and region of Attica since March 2001. This airport was built to replace the old Ellinikon International Airport in preparation for the 2004 Summer Olympics. Currently the airport has 2 terminals, the main and the satallite terminal and uses 2 runways, runway 03L/21R and 03R/21R. 

The map layout of the airport (Photo: Airportguide) 

On the day of departure 

It was certainly a beautiful day for flying. From my Airbnb apartment at Agios Nikolaos, I took the line 1 to Nerantziotissa station and changed for the Suburban train to the airport, the journey took about an hour. 

My comfortable train ride to the airport. 

What I like about Athens Airport is it is easily accessible to the train station and hotel. 

This is the Sofitel Athens Airport Hotel. 

Time to check in at the airport. 

This is the departure hall for check-in. 

This is where I check in for my Skyexpress flight. 

The airport was quite crowded with a lot of international and domestic flights departure happening around the same time. 

As the airport doesn't operate self check-in kiosk, it's not surprised that the queues are long. 

There are some shops and cafes located at the land side. 

The airport offers complimentary WiFi 

According to the ground staff, she requested me to check in my luggage as the flight was full. I was hesitant but decided to go ahead. At least my luggage was given the priority tag. 

My boarding pass for the short domestic flight. 

The airside 

Security check was done and it took about 20 minutes to clear. 

We had to pass through some duty-free shops to reach the gate area. 

Checking my flight, it was on schedule. 

As my flight gate was assigned B23, it means one thing, a ride to the aircraft by airport bus. 

A good number of eateries was available but I decided to skip them and enjoy dinner at my destination.

While waiting for my flight, I did some planespotting.

Swiss Airlines Airbus A220-300

Aegean Airbus A320CEO (Old livery)

Sky Express Airbus A320NEO

Gulf Air Airbus A321NEO (Retro livery)

Iberia Airbus A320NEO 

Aegean Airbus A320CEO (Don't let the racoon style cockpit fool you!)

Aegean Airbus A321NEO

Departure gate of my flight 

It was crowded at the gate area, I thought the flight was full. 

There are monitor screens (touchscreen) to surf the internet. 

Airport Lounges are available at the airside. 

After the tour around the airside, I went back to my gate and not long after, it was time to board. 

We passed by this A320CEO being prepared for departure.

A lot of Aegean airlines aircraft waiting for their next duty. 

My aircraft was parked beside this old livery of Aegean's A320.

The view of the tarmac. 

This is my ride: SX-CHG

This A320neo is powered by GE Leap-1A engine, so Skyexpress is not affected by the Pratt and Whitney engine woe. 

Beautiful reflection of the sunlight. 

My ride: SX-CHG (Photo: Grzegorz Krupa) 

Airbus A320-251N (Leased from Griffin Global Asset Management)
NTU (Not Taken Up by Air Asia) 
Delivered to airline in June 2021
Configuration: Y186 
Engines: 2 X CFM Leap-1A26
10079th Airbus built 
Built in Toulouse (TLS) 
Age: 3+ Years old (Jan 2024) 

Flight route: ATH-SKG

Miles: 186

My seat: 7A (Seatmap.com)

Date of departure: 4th January 2024
Airline: Sky Express 
Aircraft: Airbus A320neo 
Registration: SX-CHG
Flight: ATH-SKG 
Flight number: GQ386
Gate: B23 
Seat: 7A 
Flight load: 80%
Schedule departure: 1650 
Boarding the bus: 1613
Pushed back: 1643 
Take off: 1652 
Flight time: 45 minutes
Actual Flight time: 35 minutes
Schedule arrival: 1745
Actual arrival: 1726 
Departure runway: 21R
Arrival runway: 34 

About SkyExpress Economy Class Cabin 

This airline has 3 different cabin configuration for the Airbus A320neo (186 seater, 174 seater and 162 seater). Currently the airline operates 8 A320neo and these aircraft were not taken up by the original operaters (Air Asia, Batik Air and Interjet) from the leasing companies so SkyExpress leased them instead. 

For my aircraft SX-CHG, it is configured with 186 seats with Air Asia's economy class cabin retained. About the cabin, only the first and the emergency row of seats offer better legroom space than the others. The standard seats offer a seat pitch of 28 inches and in addition to the first row, it can recline up to 2 inches. For every seat in the cabin, it has a seat width of 17.5 inches. 

My in-flight Experience 

I was greeted by a seat of lovely crew whom one of them led me to my seat even though I was flying on Economy Class, that was nice. Looking at the cabin, it was so familar to me then I did a check and realised this aircraft was supposed to be operated by Air Asia but somehow the airline didn't take delivery of the aircraft probably happened during Covid period and that was understandable. Once more passengers boarded the aircraft, there was a screaming kid throwing his tantrum and while waiting for the second bus of passengers to arrive, one of the crew offered to take this screaming kid upfront to have a look at the cockpit hoping to calm him down, unfortunately that didn't work. The parent had to bring him back but somehow, Thank God, he feel asleep just before we take off and remained asleep until arrival. 

Another good thing happened to me is that I had the middle seat vacant so more legroom space for both the seat mate (aisle) and myself. There were slight turbulence during this flight and it is nothing compare to my return flight, more on that in my next trip report (Aegean A320ceo SKG-ATH). 

Despite the short flight, a light snack and beverage was served to us and BOB (Buy On Board) service was available. We landed 10 minutes ahead of schedule, about 6 minutes longer than my shortest flight (35 minutes). Overall it was a nice and pleasant flight. 

Economy Class 

The colour of the seatbelt reflects on its original operator, Air Asia. 

There is a curtain dividing the seats between Bliss Business Class and the Economy Class seats. 

I am not sure about the business class seats but I believe the middle seat remains vacant. 

This cabin product is absolutely basic, no IFE entertainment system and USB/Universal charging ports. 

The view from my seat. 

I felt like I was on an air Asia aircraft! 

This is my window seat (below). 

Nothing exciting about this cabin product. 

More photos of the seat 

The legroom space is about 28 inches but it's bearable for this short 40 minutes flight. 

The legroom space 

What's inside the seat pocket? 

Disposal Bag 

In-Flight Magazine 

Safety Card 

The airline is currently operating the following aircraft types: 

I have not flown on the ATR-42 series, maybe one day. 

Although this is a low cost carrier, we were given a choice of beverage (orange juice for me), a packet of wet tissue and a packet of Greek snack. 

In-Flight Snack 

Window view (Take off to Landing) 

It was certainly a great day for flying.

Even though you see quite a number of different liveries below but there are only 2 airlines. KLM and Aegean! The aircraft featuring Aegean livery consist of the old and new livery and the Star Alliance livery. 

This is the special star alliance livery featured on Aegean's A320CEO aircraft.

As it was evening time, we enjoyed the view of the sunset. 

Aegean's A320ceo waiting for her next assignment. 

Rolling down the runway in this beautiful weather. 

Somehow this view reminds me of my Jetsmart's A320 takeoff at Santiago Airport. 

Beautiful, isn't it? 

During our cruising, we witnessed the sun disappearing. 

Not long after, we started our descent. 

There was a bit of light turbulence during our descent. 

We are on final approach on runway 34 at SKG. 

Welcome to Thessaloniki! 

Cyprus Airways's livery caught my attention! 

What do you think of this livery? 

Once again, we were parked at a remote parking lot. 

Disembarkment from the aircraft by the airstairs

What a beautiful evening at Thessaloniki (SKG) Airport!

Thanks for the ride, SX-CHG! 

My flight summary 

Welcome to Thessaloniki International Airport Macedonia! 

This airport is quite small so it didn't take long to exit the airport. 

As there is no metro train transport in this city, I decided to take the bus to the nearest bus stop to my accomodation and walk from there to the place. 

This is where I waited for the bus. The bus fare from the airport to town is $1.90 Euros, not too bad. Certainly cheaper than taking Uber which would have cost me $20 more. 

I was on board the articulated bus which took about 45 minutes to reach my destination. 

My ratings

Airline mobile app/website: 3/5
Airport Experience (ATH): 3/5
In-Flight Service: 4.5/5
In-Flight Entertainment System: 0/5 (None) 
Seat Comfort: 3.5/5
Cabin Ambiance: 3.5/5
Cabin condition: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5
In-Flight Snack: 3.5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Overall rating: 36/50
Percentage: 72%


This Greek low cost carrier offers competitive airfare with its main competitor Aegean Airlines and I was able to take advantage of the good fares during the low season. Of course Aegean offers more such as complimentary wifi and mileage accrual and this might be a deciding factor for some but I find my first experience with this airline to be positive and looking at past history of my flight for example, the flight record is quite good. 

About the flight, apart from the screaming kid, everything went well. Only complaint I have is the lousy seat map and hopefully they upgrade it to something more user-friendly for the passengers to select the seat. 

As for the economy class product, this economy class seat is familiar to me especially having flown Air Asia a few times so I am quite familiar with the product. Unfortunately, these seats are not fitted with any form of Entertainment system and charging ports. So for longer flights, you may not like it. 

Do I recommend this airline? Yes, why not especially if you prefer to travel light and save some money.

Hope you enjoyed this trip report! 

For my previous trip report with Aegean Airlines A320neo (FRA-ATH), click here

For my next trip report with Aegean Airlines A320ceo (SKG-ATH), click here

Have a good one! 

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