In a nutshell: the Goldair Handling Lounge Athens may be the contract Emirates lounge in the Greek capital, but it’s a far cry from one of the airline’s own lounges. The space is worn, plain, and badly in need of a refresh. The prepackaged food selection during COVID-19 wasn’t all that hot. The highlights were the reasonable drink selection and the excellent service. 

It was finally time. This trip included a double first: my first flight on Emirates and my first fifth freedom flight. I was excited. Check-in took much longer than anticipated, due to a far longer first class and business class line at Athens International Airport. But I still made it through with about an hour to kill before my flight to Newark. I spent it in the Goldair Handling Lounge.

Goldair Handling Lounge Access

Goldair Handling serves both international and domestic/EU flights. The lounge I visited was in the international terminal, and it serves a number of airlines, including Emirates, American Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and Aeroflot. You can also access the lounge with with a Priority Pass membership. While I have a Priority Pass card, I was able to simply show my Emirates business class boarding pass for access.

According to Priority Pass, you also need proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a 48-hour rapid test or certificate of illness to access the lounge. This was either not a requirement when I visited, or the lounge failed to check my test. The international (Hall A) Goldair Handling Lounge Athens is open 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM daily. Priority Pass member can stay a maximum of four hours.

Goldair Handling Lounge Athens entrance

General Space

The Goldair Handling Lounge Athens is fairly small. There is only one main space. There was hardly anyone in the lounge when I arrived, but this quickly changed when a large group of Hasidic Jews arrived. They had comprised most of the Emirates business and first class check-in line. Other guests arrived as well, and the seating was eventually close to a half full.

Goldair Handling Lounge Athens space

Some of the seating is decent, but a bunch is pretty tired. There is a large table at one end of the lounge, which is where I chose to sit. Most of the seats are armchairs with a long couch running nearly the length of the space, with small tables and chairs placed opposite it.

The chairs at the table were in the worst shape. I don’t know if I’ve seen a dirtier chair in an airport lounge. Swapping out all the non-armchairs would be an easy thing to do and would be an immediate improvement.

There are a couple computers for guests to use at the Goldair Handling Lounge Athens. The flight monitors are back near check-in, which is annoying if you’re trying to keep tabs on your flight. The staff did announce boarding time for the Emirates flight, as its passengers comprised the majority of guests while I was there.

Food and Beverage

Oh, how I miss the pre-COVID travel days. I’m thankful that there are some lounges bringing back the buffet food. No such luck at the Goldair Handling Lounge Athens. The chafer dishes are being used to hold cold, pre-packaged food instead of hot items. There were a couple sandwich and wrap options.

The salad assortment wasn’t half bad. Everything was packaged into individual servings. There were also a couple dessert options.

Goldair Handling Lounge Athens food

The Goldair Handling Lounge Athens does offer a decent soft drink and alcoholic beverage selection. It looks self serve, and I saw others serving themselves, but one of the attendants came over as I started to make a drink. We had a funny moment, as I had no idea what she was asking me in Greek. She handed me a tonic water at one point, which I promptly opened and handed back, thinking it was some sort of COVID-19 sanitary measure. She busted up laughing, as this was clearly not what she was expecting.

Goldair Handling Lounge Athens bar

Even though I’d had a solid lunch in Athens (moussaka!), I ate a bit more before the flight. Sorta. I couldn’t finish the sandwiches. The salad, though, was good.

I had some amusement during the remainder of my time in the lounge. The attendant that I’d interacted with at the lounge bar would give me a wink or chuckle every time she’d pass by collecting plates, cups, and trash.

Final Thoughts on the Goldair Handling Lounge Athens

Compared to most international lounges, the Goldair Handling Lounge Athens is pretty low on the list. The space is worn and needs a refresh, and the food is mediocre, at best, during COVID-19. I enjoyed the tiny salad and drink to tide me over before the flight, and it was a nicer place to wait than the terminal. More than anything, it just doesn’t jive before flying in an Emirates premium cabin. Or maybe it does. I’ll have more on their 777-300ER business class later.

I know I’ll make it to Emirates Dubai hub someday and will certainly check out their business or first class lounge on that trip. My favorite lounges are those with large, extensive, uniquely designed spaces (think KLM’s flagship international business class lounge in their Amsterdam hub). I doubt Emirates will disappoint.