Greek island night flights on hold
Andy Cornish: June 2015
Holidaymakers planning flights in and out of Greek Island airports this summer may find problems in booking flights at night.
Many Greek island airports across the country are facing serious problems as government cash dries up for vital maintenance work, it has been reported.
According to Greek newspaper Ethnos, some tourists have already faced delays as night-time navigational aids at some Greek Island airports wait for their regular service checks while other island airports face a deterioration of runway surfaces.
Reports claim there have already been several delays to night flights and a number of schedule changes in services to the airport of Mytilene on Lesvos.
They say the reason for the delays is that maintenance of night flying navigational equipment has fallen behind schedule resulting in the cancellation of some night flights to the island.
Airports at popular holiday islands like Skiathos and Santorini recently got a one-month extension for the annual inspection of their night flight navigational aids, but this is about to come to an end.
It may mean that night flights to these islands may be cancelled until airport navigational equipment has been passed by hard-pressed inspectors.
This isn't great news for tourist visitors at the start of the main holiday season for the Greek Islands in a year when airports in Greece are reporting record numbers of passengers.
Issues with navigational radio aid systems have resulted in several airports curtailing their night flying schedules. Greek air traffic controllers say flights without navigation aids are permitted in daylight hours and for half an hour after sunset but not later.
Problems have also been reported at Mykonos airport where runway repairs have not been carried out for more than two years. Officials claim that ad hoc repairs to the aircraft runway have been carried out multiple times while they wait for a major overhaul.
The latest issues arise after many Greek airports report a huge rise in visitor numbers this year. Athens International Airport has announced its best season ever, with more than six million passengers in the first five months of the year, up nearly 24% on last year.
According to figures total of 1.65 million passengers passed through its gates in May alone, up 22% on the same period last year, with domestic travellers notching up a 20% rise while international travellers saw a 28% increase.
At the same time, the number of flights in Athens increased 17% to 61,950 in the first five months of 2015 compared to the same period last year. In May, flights increased almost 14% with domestic traffic up by more than 9%.
This has been the best year for Athens airport since it first opened. The poorest figures were recorded in 2002 and 2013 with just 4 million passengers each of the years.
Airports at Chania, on Crete, Mykonos and Santorini have also reported increases in passenger traffic this year with passenger numbers up 94%, 46% and 38% respectively.
Travel giant TUI, which includes Thomson and First Choice holidays, has given a boost to long-term prospects of Greek tourism with stated aims of flying in 10% more tourists to Greece in 2015 compared to last year.
TUI says it is aiming to extend Greece's tourism season from 180 days to 210 this year adding that 'Greece remains an authentic destination and a strategic priority for TUI'.