ATHENS – The rich coming to Greece for vacations in their own private or chartered jets don’t have to worry about sitting with economy passengers, and soon may even have their own airports, especially on islands, built by the state.
A proliferation of 5-Star hotels and luxury resorts reserved for those with very deep pockets has shown the world’s Uber-rich preferring Greece as a destination but want the amenities they’ve come to expect.
There have been so many private jet arrivals this summer, even during the lingering but waning COVID-19 pandemic that Greek commercial airports are finding it difficult to accommodate them, and their users wishes.
The pilot of Egyptian conglomerate owner Shafik Gabr complained to the Greek government that an island airport where he landed wouldn’t let him keep it there for more than five days because of a lack of space, said Kathimerini.
Trying to cater to their needs, New Democracy government officials are talking to the Defense Ministry to use facilities at underused or abandoned military airstrips to be set aside for the wealthy fliers, the report said.
During the first seven months of 2022, more than 16,000 private jets landed in Greece, 40 percent more than the last pre-COVID pandemic year of 2019 that saw record tourism – on a path to be busted this year with more arrivals.
At the country’s 14 largest regional airports, including on the mainland, the July arrivals rose 11.1 percent to 5.9 million passengers compared to the same month in 2021, this year boosted by the ending of health restrictions.
It’s hasn’t been across-the-board gains as some of the airports saw reduced traffic compared to the previous year, most notably at Thessaloniki – the country’s second-largest – and dropoffs on the refugee island of Lesbos as well as Kavala and even the popular destination of Skiathos.
But there were giant increases in commercial air traffic landing on Santorini, which saw a 36.2 percent bump up to go along with ferry passengers, while there was a 21 percent increase at Hania on Crete and on Corfu, it was said.
And the figures, the paper said, showed people flying directly to regional airports with a 9.6 percent decline in traffic at Athens International Airport that is a hub and jumping-off spot to make connections elsewhere in the country.