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Can we charter an aircraft between Rome and Athens?

Can we charter an aircraft between Rome and Athens?

Nov 17th, 2009, 08:06 AM
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Can we charter an aircraft between Rome and Athens?

This post already exists on the "Air Travel" forum and there have been a few positive responses. I wondered if there was anyone on the Europe forum that might have some insight on whether chartering an aircraft is a reasonable option.

We will be a school group totalling approximately 47 people. We will be travelling from Rome to Athens and are presently scheduled for the Superfast Ferry from Bari to Patras. I am wondering if anyone knows if we could book a charter airplane to take us on this leg of our trip? Could you estimate the cost or provide me with a link to someone somewhere who might be able to answer this novel question. Our trip is scheduled for March 2011, so there is time for adjustments, but I do like to plan ahead. With thanks.

Also, if anyone has any suggestions on how to nail a large number of cheaper seats on scheduled airlines flying between Rome and Athens, I would love to hear from you too.

teacherCanada is offline  
Nov 17th, 2009, 08:32 AM
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Aegean Airlines provides regularly scheduled flights between Rome and Athens. I suspect other airlines do as well.

You should have your TA contact Aegean directly (and immediately) and see if a block of seats can be booked. This is going to be infinitely cheaper than a charter flight that will certainly cost in the thousands of euros.

I suspect you'll pay less than the comparable cost of renting a coach transport, ferries, etc. FYI: If you end up traveling to Bari from Rome for the ferry, you probably do NOT want to rent a coach. You should just take a train. It will likely be faster and simpler, not to mention cheaper.

I suspect Aegean will probably have plenty of seats open in the off-season if you book immediately, but other airlines may also fly this route; it's very common. And if your dates are at all flexible, that will be even easier. This is one situation where you want the TA involved NOW rather than tomorrow. If you can get this transportation for $200 or less per person, it's worth the money to avoid the hassle. But I can assure you that a charter flight will not be $200 per person.
doug_stallings is online now  
Nov 17th, 2009, 08:40 AM
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TC -- I do think that it is time for you to stop depending on individual pleasure travelers for your quite complex and actually "professional tour" needs. You are not a licensed tour company yourself, you are a hard-working educator. You need to go to a resource that will give you MAJOR PRICE BREAKS for group travel, and take the hassle off your shoulders. You can do this if you have some kind of picture of what the "going rate" is right now, for individual travel between the various points of your journey ... it can't be perfect of course, because you're looking 18 months out, but it will be a starting point. Examples would be the March 2010 rates (you can research these quickly online) for:

Rome - Athens Flight
Athens - xxx by ferry - best choice would be Blue Star lines (LARGE vessels, reliable).
Athens Plaka-area hotel (large)

Three agencies are often mentioned on many forums as being accustomed to dealing with North American Clients. They are Greece-based and thus can deal with things happening over there, which a US/Canadian agency cannot. They are Dolphin-Hellas, Thesaurus, and Fantasy Travel.

I recommend that you contact all THREE simultaneously by e-mail. Tell them you have a large group, 47-50 people, going from March x in Rome returning March x from Athens. You want to discuss a group-rate "package" which would involve
(1) flight Rome-athens -- either Group-discount on scheduled flight OR charter (by a major scheduled airline only).
(2) Athens hotel accommodations at group rates for x days for x rooms (quads/triples for kids, doubles for x adults)
(3) Group rates on ferry travel to XXX and return.
(4) Group rate for xx nights on xx island

When you hear back from them, then you will have a "big picture." If you fail to do this, you will be failing your group, because no one on this Forum or other travel forums can give you better rates than can be negotiated on a group basis.

I would avoid including things like "transfers", which mean cars/charter vehicles to get you from an airport/seaport to Central Athens. There are major public busses/Metros for this, and "transfers" could cost you a ton. Of course, you must have enough adult leadership and teen discipline to get people on/off public transit without mishaps or leave-behinds. Knowing teens (even "well-behaved" ones) I do not envy your headaches! You may have to consider a special bus arrangement in/out of athens.

You HAVE the power of numbers to get someone to do the work for you... use it! Good luck!
travelerjan is online now  
Nov 17th, 2009, 08:43 AM
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Doug is right, he says"TA" = Travel Agent. Yes, it may be local ... the Greece ones are good for those of us who are individual, but if you have a GOOD one locally, (not a mom-pop operation), who would be available to you by phone 24/7 from Greece.. yes. But stop trying to do this yourself. Groups are what professional help is for.
travelerjan is online now  
Nov 17th, 2009, 08:45 AM
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Thank you Doug. I suspected the cost of chartering an aircraft will be high. I just didn't know how high. This forum has provided me with so many tidbits of information that have saved me so much time and enriched the adventures of my students, that I just have to ask.

Thank you for the suggestion about taking the train rather than a coach. We are presently scheduled for a coach from Rome to Bari (but we were also going to stop in Pompeii on the way).

Sadly, our dates aren't really flexible because we have arranged an Aegean cruise departing on the Monday. Would you think it is prudent to book this soon? 17 months prior?

Thanks for your response.

teacherCanada is offline  
Nov 17th, 2009, 08:53 AM
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I think the ferry is a much more interesting mode of transport. I loved it.
Gretchen is offline  
Nov 17th, 2009, 09:48 AM
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If you really want to get a quote try
They have offices in the US & Athens (couldn't see one in Canada though)
yiassas is offline  
Nov 17th, 2009, 09:53 AM
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BTW, I also think it would be expensive, but you don't know until you ask do you? Worth a try!
yiassas is offline  
Nov 17th, 2009, 10:04 AM
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teacher, if your transport TO athens would necessitate a 1-day shift in your Aegean cruise, I bet dollars to donuts the cruise people would accommodate you without penalty -- they are HURTING for business. as yiassas says, you never know till you ask. And that is another argument for dealing thru a Travel professional, for such a large group. YOU are not used to cutting deals and applying pressure, THEY are.
travelerjan is online now  
Nov 17th, 2009, 10:28 AM
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Sorry, I though this was for 2010, not 2011. It might be a bit early for the actual booking but not at all early to start planning the nitty gritty. This can be done most cost effectively a year to 9 months in advance. It's already November. By April, you want to have some bids in place so you can start finalizing things by May or June.

There are companies that arrange for educational group tours. STA Travel might be one. It's a travel agency that specializes in student travel, though it's mostly for college students. Still, worth a try.

The short answer is no, it's not too early to start planning. You have more time than I originally thought, but big trips like this are often booked a year in advance, and people will need time to arrange for fund-raising to pay for the trip, won't they? That surely takes months and is something you'd want to do next summer, when the weather is nice. So I can't imagine why you wouldn't want pricing in place by March or April at the latest. Things like this don't move that quickly. It takes time and negotiations and research (on the part of the TA, not you).
doug_stallings is online now  
Nov 17th, 2009, 06:53 PM
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travelerjan - Thank you for your response. I was possibly remiss by not mentioning that our group does have a professional TA planning the logistics of our trip. I didn't feel it was germane to the issue and chose to leave out that detail. Apparently our responses crossed earlier in the day. The intent of this post is not to "depend on individual pleasure travelers for my complex and "professional tour" needs." I would not expect that.

I am regularly amazed by what "individual pleasure travelers" know and how willing they are to share their knowledge.

We have a basic itinerary provided by our TA with travel dates, modes of travel and sights we will view. The purpose for my post was to see what type of option was available for the transfer from Rome to Athens. If I could present our TA with a price-sensitive option for travel from Rome to Athens I would do so. If the response to this thread indicated a charter flight would be cost-prohibitive I would let the issue drop. In a few months it will be too late to ask for changes in our itinerary. I feel these questions need to be asked now. There was no scurrilous intent to circumvent any due process on this message board or anywhere else.

Your advice to research destinations and travel is most appropriate. I had researched prices for group travel earlier in order to be cognizant of issues when dealing with TA's.

Thank you for your comment about the "hard-working educator". I appreciate your support.

You are right. We do have the power of numbers. I am confident we will use our numbers wisely to provide the best education excursion possible for our students. I also wanted to use the wisdom and "power" available through Fodor's. It was never my intent to offend and I apologize if I have.

Gretchen - The ferry is appealing in many ways, but we will have four nights in the Aegean a few days later. If the ferry was the only water transport I would fight to keep it, but since we will be "water-borne" twice I was looking for cost-effective options.

yiassis - Thank you for the link. I will make the connection to find out the cost. It may be expensive, but I agree with you - we won't know until we ask.

travelerjan - Presently we are scheduled for a Louis Cruise. I think their cruise ships are fairly large and I doubt they would respond kindly to a shift in sailing date. I will ask our TA if this is done.

Doug_Stallings - Thanks to you again for coming back to this thread with clarification. Yes, our trip is scheduled for March 2011. Our TA has recently shifted companies, but holds on to all his European connections from the past. We were very pleased with his work for our school trip to Europe in 2008. I appreciate your comments about the need for planning this far in advance. I think it is the best time to look for options. Our TA (as good as he is) may not think "outside the box" for all aspects of our excursion. I want to be at least peripherally knowledgable when I suggest he explore the possibility of a charter or how or when to book lower cost flights from Rome to Athens.

Thank you everyone for your support and encouragement.

By the way, travelling with 40 hormonal teenagers in a land they are unfamiliar with and unable to speak the language is a most stimulating way to spend a few weeks. I encourage everyone to try it at least once in their life.

teacherCanada is offline  
Nov 17th, 2009, 07:21 PM
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No no teacherCanada, you didn't offend me, not at all... I was simply concerned for YOU, that you were taking on too much, and were not taking advantage of what an agent could do for you, and that we individual travelers could not give you the answers you needed -- I was worried that you would not get the help you needed to develop the best prices and easiest routes. Nowhere on this thread did u mention having help; perhaps on another thread. Glad to learn that you have a TA -- and perhaps we can help you to keep prodding him toward the best total package ... after all it appears that this group is almost 2x the size of your last group he planned for.

(BTW, I am the daughter of a teacher, granddaughter of a principal, have 17 teachers in my immediate family including my sister the founder of the first Quaker school in Indiana in more than 100 years ... and tho I've done summer-course teaching at the college level, I could NEVER have undertaken a career as a teacher, it's MUCH too demanding!).
travelerjan is online now  
Nov 17th, 2009, 07:48 PM
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"....By the way, travelling with 40 hormonal teenagers in a land they are unfamiliar with and unable to speak the language is a most stimulating way to spend a few weeks....."

YOU ARE SO RIGHT!! I work part time as a contract tour director leading student educational trips within the US and Europe. I absolutely love it. It's so rewarding being a part of watching the students as their minds are opened to new cultures and ideas. It is so often a life changing experience for them.
wug is offline  
Nov 18th, 2009, 09:49 AM
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Agree that you need tp get a travel agent working on this. There are so many of you that you shuold qualify for all sorts of group discounts - and the agent can take their commission off that - so you won;t be paying out of pocket.

It is certainly possible to charter a plane. However, a plane that holds that many people (as opposed to usual private flight for 8 or 10) will cost tens of thousnds of dollars. Don't even think about attempting this yourself.
nytraveler is offline  
Nov 18th, 2009, 12:40 PM
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Looking at this thread again, and the fact that your travel agent may not be "thinking outside the box" -- I must warn you about one thing. Because a large group like this is harder to book into a budget hotel, agents often want to take the easy way out, and book into a large chain hotel. In Athens, BEWARE. Most of these really large hotels are NOT in convenient walking distance to the Major Sites (which are mainly in the PLAKA District) ... they require a shuttle bus (which only SOME chain hotels provide, and not frequently), or public transportation, which can be a total hassle with such a huge group.

THerefore you must prod your TA about location, and insist that hotel(s) accommodations be in one of the following districts, which roughly surround the Acropolis area
(you can locate them on this online Map, which is printable): http://www.athensguide.com/map/athens.htm

PLAKA (and Aerides on Map which actually also is Plaka)
... Do NOT agree to a Hotel in the OMONIA area.

When your TA comes up with some possibilities, First check traveler reviews by googling "Hotel XXX Trip Advisor Reviews". Of the ones that pass muster, post inquiries here and on TRip Advisor Greece Forum ... that forum is full of actual Athens RESIDENTS who will give you the straight story from a front-row seat.
travelerjan is online now  
Nov 24th, 2009, 10:30 AM
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yiassas and others - I have contacted bluestarjets. They offer a wide range of flight options around the world and look like a super company to deal with. They did respond to my request for a quote on the Rome to Athens flight. It appears they serve a clientele quite different than ours. Their quote for a one way flight was $40 000 USD. I am glad I have their answer and now I can focus on continuing with the ferry plan or working for cheap seats on a scheduled flight. Thanks again to all who helped.

travelerjan - I really appreciate your comments about hotel location in Athens. This is information I simply didn't have until you mentioned it. When possible, I do check our hotels on some hotel review sites. They have been invaluable. Thanks so much for your help.

teacherCanada is offline  

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