Seaplane trial flights to begin in the Ionian in October
CORFU. The project which has faced countless obstacles and delays is ready to take off.
According to Greek Water Airports Founder and Managing Director Anastasios Govas, trial flights of seaplanes will begin in the Ionian in October, based in Corfu and extending to another two licensed waterways in Paxos and Patras with the aim of commencing commercial flights in Spring 2022 with the start of the new tourist season.
Mr. Govas told Enimerosi that the licensing of waterways in Erikoussa, Mathraki and Othoni is nearing completion, allowing them to be included in the network - probably by the spring. Technical documents have also been submitted for approval for Zakynthos, Lefkada, Meganissi, Ithaki and Cephalonia.
"Our ultimate goal, including the waterway in Ioannina, is to have 12 waterways in the region and sufficient aircraft to make the project sustainable,"Mr. Govas said. "The big problem is the time-consuming bureaucracy, however, with the 2020 legislation the time required for licensing regional waterways has been reduced considerably as they are exempt from the mandatory approval of an Environmental Impact Study and are obliged to provide Environmental Committments, for which the procedure is simpler and less time-consuming."
The Managing Director of Corfu Port Authority Spyros Zervopoulos told Enimerosi that trial flights will take place in October at Corfu Port using alocation that has already been decided - to the left of the entrance - and the necessary facilities and equipment (floating docks, covered areas for passenger check-in etc.) are already in place.
Trial flights also took place in November 2017 with a view to starting commercial flights but nothing came of it. "In the past there wasn't a large enough network of waterways to make the project sustainable," Said Mr. Zervopoulos.
To make an investment in seaplanes sustainable there needs to be a network of 5-8 waterways and 4.5 - 5 hours of scheduled flights daily.
Flights and aircraft
At the moment, it is planned that three companies will handle the flights in the Ionian Islands. Grecian Air Seaplanes (a consortium of German investors via Axionair Ltd and Greek Water Airports), Hellenic Seaplanes and IPPIAS Airlines. The first two companies are already in the process of providing the first two seaplanes, each with a capacity of 19 passengers.
With regard to ticket prices, according to Hellenic Seaplanes Chairman and Managing Director Nicolas Charalambous, the maximum will be €90 and prices will be set according to demand and the flight time of each route. The maximum flight time will be 45 minutes.
Collaboration with cruises
Collaboration with cruises is included in the companies' plans with guided tour flights of 10-30 minutes over local and neighbouring sights. Additionally, according to Mr. Govas, there will be a connection with Brindisi, Italy with amphibious seaplanes which will also commence operations in spring. "We consider that there are many benefits from the use of seaplanes," he said. "They can provide a safe, fast and flexible service for passengers all year round. There is great interest in one-day travel, which isn't easily achieved by other means of transport. New jobs will also be created as personnel will be recruited from the locations where the waterways will be established."
Furthermore, as Mr. Charalambous said, the flexibility provided by seaplanes - scheduled flights, freight, airlifts for patients or chartered flights - means that there can be many and varied passenger target groups. According to their estimates, the total number of passengers will be over 1 million once the company's fleet of seaplanes is fully-developed throughout the country, with an anticipated annual income of over €100m.