My daughter will travel from the UK to Athens in the summer. She is 16 years old and a little anxious having to do this for the first time on her own. I'm looking for a service to help her through Athens airport that's not the airline. Is there such a service? Any help would be much appreciated.

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    In a similar situation I showed a young traveller some clips of airport arrivals that I found on YouTube. They found that reassuring. I assume she is being met in the airport? – user16259 Jun 3 '18 at 14:59
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    Why are you specific that it is not the airline? Providing service to un-acompanied minors is something airlines do. – Peter M Jun 3 '18 at 22:53
  • @PeterM not all airlines provide the service. Low-cost airlines often do not. Ryanair and EasyJet don’t, for instance. – jcaron Jun 4 '18 at 7:00
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    @jcaron Sure, but the way the asker phrases it makes it sound more like a choice, to me. Most people would say that their airline doesn't offer the service, if that was the case. – David Richerby Jun 4 '18 at 12:01
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    @jcaron furthermore, some airlines that provide the service have an upper age limit that is below 16 years. For example, Olympic Air has a maximum age of 12. Some airlines, like British Airways, offer it optionally for older minors, but others, like Olympic, do not. – phoog Jun 4 '18 at 14:59

I’m afraid it seems the airport relies on airlines providing this service (see https://www.aia.gr/traveler/travellers-info/special-assistance).

As some airlines do not provide an escort service for UMs, you are faced with two options:

  • book with an airline which does provide the service
  • or give all the useful info to your daughter so she understands it’s really not that hard.

Explaining to her what she needs to do, showing her the signs she must follow, and letting her watch videos on the topic should help her a lot. It's really not that hard:

  • follow the herd out of the plane until inside the terminal (this may just involve walking up a jetway, or that could involve walking down the stairs, taking a bus, and walking a bit more, but everybody else will be doing exactly the same thing, definitely nothing to think or worry about)
  • follow the signs that say "Baggage / Exit"
  • At passport control, enter the queue for "EEA visitors" (the language may be "EU visitors" or "EU passports" or "EEA passports" or something similar). It doesn't matter if she enters the other queue, it will just take a bit longer.
  • when she gets close to the counters, wait for a counter to be available to approach
  • show her passport to the officer and answer any questions (there probably won't be any)
  • look up on what carrousel the luggage is to be delivered. Remember to check using the airline/flight number and not just the origin airport, as there may be multiple flights from the same airport arriving at more or less the same time (and airport names are shown in greek half of the time, which makes it a lot less practical)
  • wait for luggage to come (can be a bit long sometimes)
  • pick up her luggage and double-check it's hers
  • follow signs for "Exit"
  • go through the Blue channel (EU arrivals)
  • look for whoever is waiting for her!

It seems like a long list, but I really went into a lot of detail. The short version is really: go to passport control, pick up luggage, exit.

Also, she has the advantage that she speaks English, so in case she has any issue she can just ask anyone for assistance.

I recommend you make sure she has international roaming activated on her phone before leaving (this may require an option to be activated on her contract and/or activation on the phone itself, sometimes separately for voice and data). That way she will be able to call you or even use video calling to show what’s around her for help.

Another option is when dropping her bags at the origin airport, you may try to ask someone else on the same flight (and exiting at Athens as well) if she can tag along. Families with children are your best bet, as travellers going alone may not want the pressure and/or delay. In some departure airports it might be difficult as there could be many flights to very different destination dropping luggage at the same counters, but it never hurts to try.

She could also ask someone on board (like the person sitting next to her). If she feels too intimidated to do it herself, just have her call you once she's on the plane and ask her to give the phone to her neighbour and sort it out for her. Don't forget to check the person is indeed exiting at Athens and not connecting to another flight.

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    The passport signs are actually specified in the Schengen Borders Code, at Article 10, with model signs given in Annex III. The signs are supposed to say EU, EEA, CH or All passports. (There's also a Visa not required option, but I've never seen that in use.) – phoog Jun 4 '18 at 15:03
  • @phoog I have seen those signs quite a few times, but I have also seen quite a few variations, with many bordering on incomprehensible for most people. That's how you usually end-up with a planeload of Morrocans queuing at the "EEA" lane and being all reprimanded one by one by the IO. Don't know what the signs say in Athens. – jcaron Jun 4 '18 at 15:18
  • I've never seen such a thing. Where have you seen it? – phoog Jun 4 '18 at 15:22
  • @phoog I don't remember the exact wording, but it was at Toulouse airport, arriving from London, probably 3 years ago. It was one of those LED-dots signs, and it was stating something like "EEA PASSPORTS" or something like it. I think most EEA citizens have no idea they have an EEA passport... – jcaron Jun 4 '18 at 15:28
  • Perhaps worth adding what to do if her luggage does not turn up? – mdewey Jun 4 '18 at 15:58

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