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Boost for Greek island airports

- by Andy Cornish

Holiday visitors to the Greek islands will be well aware of how frustrating airport check-ins can be with long queues at outdated and inadequate island airports.

That looks set to change this year following the sell-off of 14 regional state-run airports to the private German-Greek consortium Fraport last year.

The sell-off went ahead with pledges to pump millions of euros into upgrading airports on islands such as Rhodes, Crete, Corfu and Skiathos.

As well as five new passenger terminals at Corfu, Kefalonia, Kos and Lesvos, Fraport has promised major upgrades at airports across Greece and the Greek Islands.

Terminal upgrades include more check-in counters, security lanes and departure gates.

And it's not only terminals that are getting a clean-up, the company is also expanding runways, increasing aircraft parking stands, fire stations and airport aprons.

The company says all work should be completed by 2021 with major island improvements for Chania, Corfu, Kavala (for Thassos), Kefalonia, Kos, Lesvos, Mykonos, Rhodes, Samos, Santorini, Skiathos and Zante.

As work goes ahead Fraport has announced a surge in new flights to many of these airports.

UK and German holiday flight companies inaugurating new flights this summer include Jet2.com, British Airways and Germania.

Fraport executive George Vilos said: "We are pleased to welcome on a daily basis new routes at our airports – a clear demonstration of the existing potential both for the airlines and destinations."

New routes by British flyer Jet2.com include those between Thessaloniki and London, Kefalonia and London and Zakynthos and Birmingham.

Jet2.com plans to introduce new routes to Thessaloniki from Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle; to Rhodes from Belfast; to Kos from Edinburgh and Birmingham; and to Kefalonia from Glasgow.

British Airways launched new flights from London (Heathrow) to Kefalonia last month and German carrier Germania is expanding service to Greece for 2018 with flights to Corfu, Kos, Rhodes, Samos, Thessaloniki, Zakynthos and Lesvos.

Mykonos has already welcomed new flights by Qatar Airways from Doha for the first time.

Fraport says more airlines are ready to increase flights to the Greek Islands including carriers such as Aegean, easyJet, Lufthansa, Ryanair, Thomas Cook and the TUI Group.

It all bodes well for the Geek Island holidays' summer season with international arrivals at Greek airports overall already up 11% this year and aircraft slots for regional airports (mainly on Greek islands ) up nearly 17% to 2.7 million.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras predicts 2018 will be the best year ever for Greek tourism with forecasts of some 32 million visitors – a 12.8% rise on last year.

But warning signs have been flagged up by big falls in the Turkish lira this year which could make holidays to Turkey much more competitive this summer.