Greece launches its first helicopter airline making island-hopping a little easier this summer

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Island-hopping in Greece this summer just got a little easier. Hoper, the first helicopter airline in Greece offering scheduled flights, is now selling tickets to 11 destinations, including harder-to-reach spots like Antiparos, Folegandros, Ios, Kea, Patmos, Sifnos and Spetses. All connect to either Athens, Santorini, or Mykonos, which serve as the carrier’s hubs.

Fares start at €160 ($172) per one-way ticket, but they will often climb higher due to demand. On the airline’s website, such a flight in August from Athens to the beautifully rugged island of Tinos currently costs €380 for a 42-minute helicopter journey. A ferry journey from Athens on the same date can take about four hours and cost €35.

With few islands benefiting from international airport access, ferries are practically a requisite for exploring the country’s most scenic summer spots; most passengers embark via Athens’ main port, Piraeus. The main benefit to this alternative is the reduced transit time—the fastest ferry to Santorini from Athens takes more than four hours, versus one hour by chopper—nixing those days of a vacation itinerary that are spent solely on getting from one point to another.

“We turn hours into minutes,” Demitris Memos, chief executive officer of Hoper, said in a press release. “Travelers earn up to a full day of vacation.”

Some luxury hotels such as the newly opened One&Only Kéa Island do offer helicopter transfers for their guests at an additional cost, and time-strapped travelers have always had the option of booking helicopters via private charters. Hoper’s flights, by contrast, are scheduled—not operated on demand—so they’re far less expensive. A private charter from Athens to Mykonos can run €2,775 for a single seat in high season. For a family of four flying with Hoper, it’s roughly €1,490 at similarly peak-demand times—a much better value.

The country’s tourism minister, Olga Kefalogianni, describes the service as a “unique step” for Greek tourism. But a ferry might still be a more convenient option on some occasions. Hoper is going to Mykonos from Athens only three times a week in August, for example, and there are generally four daily ferries in high season from Athens.

Hoper’s flights depart from Koropi, a 10-minute drive from Athens International Airport, which is more conveniently situated than the farther ferry port, some 50 minutes from the airport. The fleet consists of five Robinson R44 and R66 helicopters, each with three or four passenger seats and cockpits with panoramic windows to take in the blue waters of the Mediterranean below.

The helicopter airline service to the islands comes as Greece is experiencing a huge boom in tourism. 2023 was a record-setting year, according to Greek officials, with nearly 33 million visitors. This year could beat that record. Tourism accounts for 18% of the nation’s gross domestic product.

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