While most people thought the core business of the European Coastal Airlines seaplane service would be reducing travel times for tourists, there are also two very distinct additional groups, which are growing in numbers on the ECA passenger manifests.
I have been using the service a little more than most as the Total geographical reach spreads, and it is striking not only how many people are taking photos during the flight (about 80%), but how many people are flying just for the panoramic experience and then immediately returning.
And then there is ECA for business…
I have met a few Hvar businessmen who cannot thank ECA enough for the connections to the mainland, especially during the winter, which have made meetings in and around Split possible. Relying on a winter ferry timetable plus the long travel time often necessitated an overnight stay, or no meeting at all. How that has changed…
I was recently contacted by a hotel resort in Istria, offering me some work, and I was delighted to accept. My problem was that in order to write about the resort, it would be best to visit it. With the bus to Pula (and Novigrad is even further) taking 11 hours each way and costing over 400 kuna last time I took it, had the seaplane option not been there, I would have politely declined due to logistics.
But the seaplane option IS there, and this is how it looks if you live on Hvar and have business to do in Istria.
A nice leisurely check-in at Jelsa International, surely one of the prettiest airports in the world. Take off time 08:10.
Hvar from the air never gets boring, and I found myself in the 80% taking photos.
Landing at Resnik close to Split Airport just before 08:30. One of my fellow passengers was a Norwegian with a flight out at 11:00. His only other option would have been the 05:30 ferry.
Time for a meeting and a coffee with a business partner in the very pleasant FlyIn cafe, where there was about half an hour to chat before the 09:00 flight to Pula.
So many things to see on the flight, so many historic towns close up.
And if I had counted all the islands I saw, it would have been in the hundreds.
And a bonus flying into Pula – over the previously closed military peninsula of Muzil.
And if the Romans had had this view, would they have remembered to build a roof on the amphitheatre?
It certainly was a spectacular way to arrive. No expensive taxi from Pula Airport here, ECA delivers its passengers downtown, about 100m from Forum, the heart of the centre. The seaport is located close to the iconic Uljanik shipyard. Arrival time – just after 10:00, less than two hours after leaving Jelsa. And the cost is more than affordable, and much cheaper than the bus – Split to Pula one way is just 349 kuna, including VAT.
And could there any better symbol of how Pula is modernising as a destination than this? The first scheduled seaplane service in modern Europe in the foreground, the cranes of Uljanik in the background – Pula’s new tourist attraction with the Visualia Lighting Giants show (see lead pic of this article – and Visualia 2015 starts today, so don’t miss it if you are in Istria).
The hotel kindly sent someone to meet me, and less than three hours after taking off from Jelsa, I was in position to experience some fine Istrian hospitality.
A business client I would never have had without the ECA service. The Pula service departs at 17:00, arriving back in Jelsa just before 19:00, so in terms of doing business, the schedule could not be better – a full seven hours in Pula and back to Split by 18:00.
And what better way to finish a productive day in Istria than with a waterfront Mojito in Jelsa, just two hours after taking off from Pula?
Transfers, business, panorama flights – whatever your interest, the European Coastal Airlines experience is changing the way things are done on the Croatian coast. Why not try it for yourself and book now?