ECA: Is­land-hop­ping in Croa­tia now just a flight book­ing away

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Hy­dro planes and is­land-hop­ping in Croa­tia, it sounds per­fect! How is the fa­mous Croa­t­ian bu­reau­cracy re­act­ing to your plans?

Start­ing the first sea­plane op­er­a­tion in South­east Europe was not an easy task. The tough­est part for us has been to fig­ure out the per­sons and author­i­ties who are ac­tu­ally in charge of the in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment we had in mind. Once we got to know the author­i­ties in charge for one des­ti­na­tion, we thought it might get eas­ier for the next one - way off the mark! Ev­ery lo­ca­tion has its own reg­u­la­tions and re­stric­tions to which we needed to pay in­di­vid­ual at­ten­tion. Our biggest jour­ney and chal­lenge was to bring the peo­ple to­gether who can move this project for­ward.

How will peo­ple book, and how would a trans­fer from, for ex­am­ple, the Split air­port to Hvar Town work? Take us through the ex­pe­ri­ence of the ar­riv­ing trav­eller.

The ar­riv­ing trav­eller has ei­ther booked his flight with us al­ready on­line via ec-air.eu or will simply walk into our ticket of­fice at Split air­port - from there we are shut­tling our pas­sen­gers by bus 500 me­ters to our sea­side ter­mi­nal. A ten-minute flight and you are in Hvar. Count­ing get­ting a ticket, lug­gage han­dling, etc., the en­tire pro­ce­dure from Split air­port to Hvar will hardly take you more than 20-30 min­utes. Ba­si­cally by lit­er­ally not spend­ing a cent more than a com­bi­na­tion of taxi and ferry fares from Split Air­port to Hvar, you cut down your trans­fer time eas­ily by 4-5 hours.

By 2015 we will con­nect our book­ing sys­tem to Amadeus, mean­ing cus­tomers will be able to book a Shang­hai-Hvar flight in one go.

Croa­t­ian is­land-hop­ping is a pop­u­lar plan for vis­i­tors to Dal­ma­tia, but ferry sched­ules do not make this easy, even in sea­son. What can you of­fer trav­ellers who want to see Split, Dubrovnik, Hvar, Kor­cula and Vis in a one-week visit, for ex­am­ple?

First of all - we will make is­land-hop­ping as easy as it can get. One will find a short con­nec­tion ac­ces­si­ble quickly, not only from the main cities on the shore, but as well con­nec­tions from is­land to is­land. Daily is­land­hop­ping will ac­tu­ally be made pos­si­ble year­around - a def­i­nite no-go in the cur­rent state with the ferry sched­ule.

And we are giv­ing the trav­ellers back what they value the most dur­ing their va­ca­tion – free time. No one can com­pete with our short fly­ing times: Split-Kor­cula in 22 min­utes, Split air­port-Hvar in 10 min­utes, etc.

You in­tend to fly in the win­ter months as well, in con­trast to most air­lines ser­vic­ing Split. Tell us more about that.

Our idea is to in­tro­duce sea­plane oper­a­tions to Croa­tia for Croa­t­ians. Our main fo­cus is on the peo­ple liv­ing on the is­lands and mak­ing it eas­ier for them to move around. By do­ing so we are cre­at­ing a net­work which can help in med­i­cal emer­gen­cies, res­cue flights, postal ser­vices and so on.

Our en­tire project is de­vel­oped to op­er­ate all year around, we are cre­at­ing sus­tain­able jobs on the is­lands, be­ing part of re­spon­si­ble busi­ness pro­grams and fo­cus­ing on the en­vi­ron­ment too.

Do you see po­ten­tial to add fur­ther points to your des­ti­na­tion map, in­clud­ing in neigh­bor­ing coun­tries?

In the first phase of our project we are look­ing into de­vel­op­ing Croa­tia and al­ready in a cou­ple of weeks the first in­ter­na­tional flight to An­cona air­port will be launched. We will ex­ten­sively grow and con­nect Italy next year and are al­ready look­ing into pos­si­bil­i­ties in Mon­tene­gro. The fu­ture of sea­plane oper­a­tions in Europe is bright.

What has been the market re­sponse to the launch of your com­mer­cial ser­vices? Do you see room on the Croa­t­ian market for mul­ti­ple sea­plane op­er­a­tors?

We have been op­er­at­ing since Au­gust 27 and are con­nect­ing the Split air­port – from a sea­side lo­ca­tion - with Jelsa on Hvar is­land four times daily. Cur­rently we have a daily load fac­tor of min­imun 60%. Plenty of flights are fully booked al­ready. Good ideas give room for com­pe­ti­tion, which is per­fectly fine with us. It can only make us bet­ter – and more­over in­crease the qual­ity of a pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence. I am look­ing for­ward to wel­come com­pe­ti­tion on one of our sea­ports.

Klaus Di­eter Martin, CEO

Dal­ma­tia-based sea­plane op­er­a­tor Euro­pean Coastal Air­lines (ECA), founded in 2000, started oper­a­tions out of Split in the sum­mer of 2014. The com­pany's ul­ti­mate goal is to con­nect all 66 in­hab­ited is­lands in Croa­tia's Adri­atic Sea as well as at a later stage ex­pand oper­a­tions abroad. The project is a mul­ti­mil­lion euro in­vest­ment and will cre­ate around 400 new jobs in Croa­tia. ECA aims to sim­plify the life of Croa­t­ian is­lan­ders as well as rev­o­lu­tion­ize trans­porta­tion in the coun­try by of­fer­ing safe, re­li­able and af­ford­able sea­plane con­nec­tions.

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