Seaplane flights taxi for take-off (yet again)
Andy Cornish: February 2016
Holiday visitors to Corfu may be the first to enjoy seaplane flights to other islands in the Ionian — but don't book tickets just yet.
The Greek government is expected to give the go-ahead for the first inter-island seaplane flights early this year.
And if licenses are granted in time, Greece's first seaplane network could link the islands of Corfu, Paxos, Zante, Kefalonia, Lefkas and the mainland port at Patra in 2016.
But don't make plans just yet. It is not the first time we've heard that Greek Island seaplane service are about to take off.
Holidaymakers were assured that seaplane links between the islands would be up and running by the summer of 2015.
Currently, the Corfu island waterway is the only one in Greece with an official license to operate seaplane services but, being the only one, has nowhere for planes to fly.
Red tape is blamed for delays in issuing licenses for other ports across Greece and the Greek Island despite local authorities being keen to launch seaplane services.
A visit to Corfu by Chinese investors hoping to supply new Dornier Seastar seaplanes for the enterprise has reignited interest in the project.
Chinese investors have already pumped € 120 million into the development of the Dornier Seastar and are keen to find customers for the seaplane.
The Ionian waterway network would be an ideal place to launch the sea flights once the waterways get the green light.
But, for seaplane services to become profitable, there will need to be a fully operational network across the whole of Greece, with as many operators as possible offering seaplane flights.
Currently, more 50 applications for waterways are awaiting government approval across Greece as a new draft law is drawn up to help speed up the licensing procedure.
And a Greek government spokesman called it 'reasonable to believe' that a small waterway network could be operating in the Ionian in the coming months.
The company behind the new waterway on Corfu says the aim is to have at least five licensed waterways fully operation in the Ionian this year.
A waterway in the nearby mainland port of Patra is vital to seaplane operations in the wider region of Western Greece, and officials are confident it will get an operational seaplane licence in the next few weeks.
Waterways on the Ionian islands of Kefalonia, Zante, and Lefkas could get operational licenses within the next three months.
But this is not the first time that the public has been assured of seaplane services up and running in time for the lucrative tourist season
Getting Greek Islands seaplane flights off the ground has been a long haul, with talk of a waterway network as long ago as 2000.
A Canadian company pulled out of plans for seaplane flights in 2008, complaining of endless Greek bureaucracy, belligerent unions and mountains of red tape.
Despite laws being passed in 2013 to help speed up development of seaplane waterways, by 2016 the Greek government had granted only a single licence — the one to Corfu.
Waterway licenses are in the pipeline for islands such as Alonissos, Patmos, Paxos, Crete, Skopelos, Skyros, Tinos and Zante, but authorities will give no firm date for approval.
Ministry officials blame the delays on to the current legal framework and the time it takes to get environmental approval for many of the waterway schemes.
Hellenic Seaplanes, had hoped to start seaplane flights in 2014 and had plans to operate from 112 waterways by this year.
To date, the only take-offs have been for test flights and no firm date has yet been set for any seaplane service anywhere in Greece or the Greek Islands.