Island hopping in Greece just got a little easier this summer. Hoper, the first helicopter company in Greece to offer scheduled flights, is now selling tickets to 11 destinations, including hard-to-reach spots like Antiparos, Folegandros, Ios, Kea, Patmos, Sifnos and Spetses. All have connections to Athens, Santorini or Mykonos, which serve as the airline’s hubs.

Fares start at €160 ($172) one-way, but often rise due to demand. On the airline’s website, such an August flight from Athens to the stunningly rugged island of Tinos currently costs €380 for a 42-minute helicopter ride. A ferry trip from Athens on the same date can take around four hours and costs €35.

With few islands benefiting from international airport access, ferries are practically a requirement for exploring the country’s most scenic summer spots, with most passengers boarding via Athens’ main port of Piraeus. The main advantage of this alternative is the shorter transit time – the fastest ferry to Santorini from Athens takes just over four hours, compared with one hour by helicopter – which eliminates the days of a vacation itinerary spent simply getting from one point to another.

“We are turning hours into minutes,” said Demitris Memos, CEO of Hoper, in a press release. “Travelers deserve up to a full day of vacation.”

Some luxury hotels, such as the recently opened One&Only Kéa Island, offer their guests helicopter transfers for an additional fee, and travelers with limited time have always had the option of booking helicopters through private charters. Hoper’s flights, on the other hand, are scheduled, not on-demand, so they are much cheaper. A private charter from Athens to Mykonos can cost €2,775 for a single seat in high season. For a family of four flying with Hoper, it’s about €1,490 at comparable peak times: much better value.

The country’s tourism minister, Olga Kefalogianni, describes the service as a “unique step” for Greek tourism. But sometimes a ferry can still be a more convenient option. For example, Hoper only runs three times a week from Athens to Mykonos in August, and in high season there are usually four daily ferries from Athens.

Hoper’s flights depart from Koropi, a 10-minute drive from Athens International Airport, which is more conveniently located than the more distant ferry port, some 50 minutes from the airport. The fleet consists of five Robinson R44 and R66 helicopters, each with three or four passenger seats and cockpits with panoramic windows to take in the blue waters of the Mediterranean below.

The helicopter air service to the islands comes as Greece experiences a huge increase in tourism. 2023 was a record year, according to Greek officials, with nearly 33 million visitors. This year could break that record. Tourism accounts for 18% of the country’s gross domestic product.

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