A prayer before takeoff

A prayer before takeoff

Greeks are wonderful, open people. Formality is rare. We often fly to Athens airport from the UK. Usually, the customs hall does not include customs officers. But on this occasion an official stopped me and asked to open my bag. Alex stormed up behind me.

“Leave him alone, he’s with me,” she yelled in Greek.

The officer stood back and let us through with a smile and mumbled an apology.

Sometimes I watch as Alex speaks to tax inspectors, police officers or the local mayor in the same tone and Greek slang as she uses to her friends while enjoying a coffee. This is one thing I love about Greece.

We were recently flying to back to London on the Greek carrier, Aegean airlines. We sat down, strapped ourselves into our seats, and the flight attendant closed the doors.

There was a crackle from the intercom, and then a voice.

“Good morning from the flight deck. Welcome on board this Aegean airline flight to London Heathrow. My name is Jannis Tsioropoulos, and I am your captain on today’s flight. The weather on route is good with a flight time of 3 hours 45 minutes. We also ask that your seats and table trays are in the upright position for take-off. Please turn off all personal electronic devices, including laptops and cell phones. Smoking is prohibited for the duration of the flight.”
Then in Greek.

“ Geiá sas fíloi mou. Welcome on board. In a moment, we will take off towards Vari. The best lamb restaurants are there. We had lunch at one yesterday. George, the first officer, will fly us to Heathrow today. I need to finish my frape and he’s new so needs the flying hours. We are currently third in line for take-off, but I had a word with the control tower, who agreed we can go before them if we get our foot down. If you stop fussing with your bags and sit down, we can beat them to the runway. Once airborne, we will do a quick right turn over Athens, over Patras, towards the island of Corfu. There is a great fish taverna in Mon Repo Beach near the old town that does the best calamari. No need to ask about the weather in London. It’s in England, so it usually rains. Flight time is around 3 and a half hours, but I may do a shortcut. Don’t smoke and turn off your mobiles. If you need to call anyone, do it quickly before I start the engine. Bravo. Enjoy the flight. Ade pame. Ke o Theos mazi mas (lets go, God be with us)”

I looked around. All the Greeks crossed themselves while the English passengers watched with a growing sense of panic. “What do they know that we don’t?”.