Flights to Greece, in normal times well booked up by this time in April, are starting to be scheduled and all those involved in the tourist trade in Greece are praying that foreign tourists will be able to begin boarding them soon.
The British and Germans, the most stalwart of all international travelers to Greece, are chomping at the bit, waiting for Greece to open its doors to them on May 14, the official date for the reopening of the country after the long months of lockdown.
International airlines are booking flights as fast as they can with the understanding that everything hinges on how the crisis plays out — whether or not the vaunted vaccination certificates will do their magic and open the floodgates to Greek beaches and other attractions all around the country.
Flights to Greece depend on vaccinated travelers
With an agreement with the nation of Israel already seeing fruit, as Israelis who are desperate for a vacation flood Greece’s airports, and a pact with Serbia opening up travel to that country, Greece has banked on the swift rollout of vaccinations in those countries allowing for safe travel.
Up to 10,000 Israelis per week are now allowed to travel throughout Greece.
In what is seen as a particularly positive development, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that it will allow vaccinated Americans to travel abroad, as long as there is low risk for themselves — without having to be quarantined upon their return.
Greek officials state that they hope to welcome at least half of the tourists that came to the country in the record year of 2019 — representing approximately 15 million individuals. They state that this would hopefully also mean that the country would take in half of the revenue from tourists that they did in 2019.
This would represent a huge uptick in revenues from the dismal performance of last year, when Americans, Chinese and many others were completely barred from entry to Greece.
However, the slow pace of coronavirus vaccinations in the EU, coupled with lingering questions about exactly how the agreed-upon digital vaccine passport will work, cause worry to continue for many.
“Green Vaccination Certificate” proposed for all Greek flights
Airlines have forged ahead, booking flights that they realize may not actually take off but betting their bottom dollar that the vaccines will allow many — if not all– to travel to Greece this summer, after the end of a dreadful year of pandemic lockdowns.
In a wide-ranging interview with CNN on March 16, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that he can foresee implementing a “Green Vaccine Certificate” type system for travelers coming from non-EU countries.
Commenting on how well Greece has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic, he also stated that by Summer, Greece will be ready to welcome travelers once again, and do it safely.
Remarking how pleased he was to have put forward the idea for such a vaccine certificate system back in January, the Greek PM said that the agreement Greece already has with Israel could be the prototype for such a protocol, which would greatly facilitate travel this Summer.
Ryanair Flights to Greece
Ryanair is bullish on Greece this year, announcing three new summer bases in Corfu, Chania and Rhodes and a total of 46 new routes on March 24. Recently, it decided to launch two additional new routes, from Warsaw to Zakynthos and Brussels to Santorini. Also, another 16 flights a week to Greece will originate from cities in Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and Poland.
Air France /KLM flights
Air France has stated that six destinations outside of Athens this Summer will be included on their flight schedules — Thessaloniki, Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu, Rhodes and Heraklion. All of these flights will originate from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
All of the Air France/KLM flights will take place from 2 to 4 times a week. The French-Dutch consolidated airline plans to further strengthen its presence at Greek destinations, especially during July through August, to meet the growing demand. Officials from the airline say that the Athens — Paris route is expected to operate six times per day during those times.
Giannis Pantazopoulos, the regional director of the Air France-KLM group in Athens, states “After a very special year for the aviation and travel industry in general, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Greece is still among the most popular destinations for our passengers.
“And this makes all of us at Air France-KLM Greece particularly happy and proud,” he added.
British Airways steps up game to Greek airports
British Airways, one of the largest airlines in the world, is gunning for a much-improved Summer in Greece this year, after UK citizens are once again allowed to roam free. The British carrier is reportedly considering the use of its very largest aircraft for Greek tourist routes this year, betting on the country’s perennial draw for holiday-starved Britons, especially after a long lockdown is lifted.
However, despite the UK’s stellar performance regarding its coronavirus vaccination rollout, Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears to be under pressure to keep the border closed on leisure travel until May 14.
Knowing, however, that eventually the ban will be lifted, BA is considering using its Boeing 787, 777 and A350 aircraft, which can carry twice as many passengers as conventional aircraft, for European destinations this year.
According to reports, these high-capacity aircraft will be used for travel to the Greek destinations of Athens, Chania, Heraklion, Rhodes, Kos and Thessaloniki.
American Airlines to start flights to Greece in June
This workhorse of the American skies will begin service to Athens once again on June 3 from JFK International Airport in New York, with passengers boarding a Boeing 777-200, featuring 37 seats in fully flat biz, 24 premium economy recliners, 66 extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra seats and 146 standard coach seats for their long-haul trip to the Greek capital.
Wi-Fi and seat-back entertainment will be available on all these American flights as well.
American will also be flying Chicago to Athens non-stop beginning on May 4 of this year, and the airline plans to add a Philadelphia to Athens flight on May 6.
Delta adds daily flight
Delta Airlines has added one daily flight, departing from JFK International Airport in New York and arriving in Athens beginning March 16 and a second daily flight is slated to begin operating on May 27.
Lufthansa already flies to Greece
Lufthansa, a regular of the transatlantic trade, is already operating flights between JFK and Athens, with one stopover in Zurich.
United Airlines start daily service to Athens
Chicago-based United Airlines has stated that it plans to begin its daily service from New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport to Athens on May 6 of this year.
Qatar Airways plans direct flights to Greece
Qatar Airways is also planning to start its routes on May 14th, with direct flights from Doha to the jet-setters paradise of Mykonos.
Flights will operate three times a week, connecting the cosmopolitan Greek island with more than 35 cities in Asia and the Middle East.
Wizz Air adds new flights to Greek destinations
The discount carrier Wizz Air will be adding new routes from Tel Aviv to the Greek islands, in response to the jump in demand after the agreement between Greece and Israel allowing 10,000 Israeli tourists per week to travel to Greece. Flights from other carriers began to operate from Israel to Greece this past Saturday, April 3.
The new Wizzair routes, which will begin operation in June, which will connect Tel Aviv with Corfu and Zakynthos, are in addition to those already announced by the Hungarian carrier to Rhodes, Crete, Mykonos and Santorini.