Greece is taking steps to launch the operation of seaplanes as they look to be experiencing renewed popularity across different parts of the world.
Late last year, the Greek government passed legislation to speed up the licensing procedures that have been dragging on in Greece for more than a decade but are seen by experts as helping add value for travellers and real estate owners.
Even though it remains unclear on exactly when the sea planes will take off in Greece, there are steps being taken by government officials and investors in the sector, indicating that the process is edging closer to maturity.
Grecian Air Seaplanes, one of the two companies active in the sector in Greece, announced in June that it expects to take delivery in summer of two new twin engine planes as part of its 180-million-euro investment plan.
In May, Grecian Air Seaplanes pilots returned from training exercises held in Canada for captains and crew members that will fly the planes, the company added.
“With the latest interventions launched by the Ministry of Transport, we expect any obstacle to the development of seaports to be overcome since seaplanes without seaports cannot exist,” said Maria Toktor, Head of Strategic Development of Grecian Air Seaplanes and Hellenic Seaports.
There is an ambitious plan to operates seaplanes from more than 30 points across Greece though facilities for waterways allowing the planes to take off and land exist in only three islands (Corfu, Paxi, Patras). The cost of a one-way 45-minute trip is expected to cost passengers about 80 euros.
Water strips allowing for seaplanes are also being planned for Igoumenitsa, Skyros, Alonissos, Skopelos, Amfilochia, Patmos, Tinos, Thessaloniki, Kalamata, Sitia, Chios, Lavrio, Sifnos, Pylos, Kavala, Kymi, Chalkida, Psara, Alimos and Oinouses, among other areas.
Each area, though, is at a different stage of development.
Planned seaports at Lake Pamvotida (Ioannina), Amfilochia and Kyllini are believed to be at an advanced stage while in Kalamata, southwestern Greece, authorities recently approved the licensing for the construction of a seaplane port in the area. Initial plans foresee Kalamata connecting with the Ionian islands, Kythira, Patra, Kyllini and Laconian Mani before then being expanded to include the Cyclades and Dodecanese islands.
With governments globally looking for ways to improve connectivity between more remote areas with large urban centres, seaplanes are coming back on the radar.
The creation of waterways allowing for planes to land or take off from are far cheaper and easier to introduce than regular airports, offering much more flexibility.
Also, access can be provided to areas without having to build infrastructure that might alter an area’s character – a particularly important feature for those with a holiday home in the area that want the improved accessibility but not the traffic, noise, and hustle and bustle that comes with it.
In Spain, authorities are looking to reintroduce seaplanes after a 65-year-break with Barcelona, Valencia and the islands of Minorca and Ibiza lined up as the initial destinations. In Australia, Sydney Seaplanes plans to create an all-electric and zero-emissions airline as soon as 2025, making it the first carrier in the world to do so in a move that will ensure its long-term viability.
The benefits are far-reaching for real estate owners. Additional transport links to areas can add up to a third in value to property prices, according to some estimates. Apart from providing stronger transport links, the higher number of visitors drawn to an area by seaplane could help businesses, such as medical clinics, upgrade their services.
With immediate accessibility to air travel being a key demand for many foreigners buying a home in Greece, the introduction of seaplanes may boost the appeal to many investors, while also adding to a property’s resale value.
Officials from Hellenic Seaplanes, the second company expected to operate seaplanes in Greece, point out that they have amphibious aircraft. This means that they can take off and land both on conventional runways and water and combine journeys linking regular airports with seaports.
Despite the remaining bureaucratic obstacles, the benefits of a seaplane network in Greece, along with renewed determination by local authorities to adopt the measure, may be enough to soon clear runways and allow for take-off.