Seaplanes Exclusive: Korcula YES, Vis NO, Dubrovnik 4 Routes to Italy All Year?

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As European Coastal Airlines opens its second seaplane route to Italy from Croatia, TCN catches up with CEO Captain Klaus Dieter Martin to learn more about preparations for the 2016 season. 

With the 2016 tourist season approaching, modern Europe’s first scheduled seaplane operator European Coastal Airlines is expanding its network. Just days after adding Dubrovnik Airport to the network, two ECA Twin Otters departed from downtown Split on February 5, 2016, destination Pescara, the second Italian destination after Ancona.

Prior to the flight, TCN caught up with ECA CEO Captain Klaus Dieter Martin to ask about preparations and progress for the 2016 season, with some specific destination information requests. 

Downtown Dubrovnik is obviously a crucial destination. Any progress?

We are still fighting for a location in the harbour at Gruz, and we are seeing positive signals, but now we need to see action, which means the opening of a tender very soon, so that we can fly this summer. From a location in Gruz, we can offer direct daily flights from Dubrovnik to Korcula to Split. We already fly from Split to two locations in Italy, but if we get the Dubrovnik location, we will offer year-round flights from Dubrovnik to four Italian destinations – Bari, Brindisi, Ancona and Pescara, with Montenegro also to be added. With the connection to Split, our customers will also be able to connect to Pula, Losinj and other destinations, a nice network of choice. We will also have direct flights from Dubrovnik to Lastovo and Hvar. It could be very interesting for Dubrovnik, but the ball is in their court. 

Korcula Town?

We finally have progress on this, and the tender for Korcula is now open, and will run until I think February 22. Our pontoon is ready, and if everything runs smoothly, we can fly this summer, connecting Korcula to both Split and Dubrovnik. 

There are rumours in the media about the island of Vis.

For Vis for now there is zero. The mayor has offered us a location which is unattractive, a garbage dump. If he thinks we will invest 300 – 400,000 euro in a garbage dump to make it attractive, he is wrong. Unfortunately the mayor is very short-sighted, and there will be no connections to Vis until he changes his mind. What is strange is that Vis has the biggest depopulation rate in recent years of any island in Croatia, with difficult connections a prime factor, and the mayor is not interested in a 12-minute connection to the mainland.

You already fly to Zadar Airport, an important entry point for Ryainair. How is progress with a location in downtown Zadar?

We had a meeting yesterday, we were in Zadar, and I think we have found a solution to have a connection to downtown Zadar. Zadar in a focal point for us, and we will have a very nice network within Croatia. In season we will have Zadar – Mali Losinj and back again, twice a day, Zadar – Rab – Rijeka twice a day, and also Zadar to Ancona and Pescara. So this will be a nice network out of Zadar.

Can you tell us about the fleet expansion?

Currently we have 3 planes, and another four for the summer. Each plane will fly 14-16 sectors a day, so you can get an idea of how many passengers we will be flying. From 2017 onwards, we plan to introduce five brand new Twin Otters from the factory each year for the next four years, so another 20 planes. In terms of employees, we will be up to 200, overwhelmingly local, staff.

It is Carnival season in Croatia. I understand you have a good news story from Lastovo?

Lastovo is home to one of Croatia’s most important carnival traditions. It is also one of the more remote inhabited islands in Dalmatia, and our 22-minute connection from downtown Split has transformed connections there. We are delighted to provide extra flights for the carnival has been huge. Lastovo is also connected to Pescara, just one example of how we can slash connection times and open new possibilities. All we need are concessions.



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