Greece’s first helicopter airline can have you hopping to 11 destinations around the country

By Christopher Cameron 10 July, 2024

The choppers can reach islands in the Agean in less than 45 minutes

Greece is in the midst of yet another record-breaking summer of tourism—no little thanks to the flowering of Athens‘ better-than-ever luxury hotel and restaurant scene. And while most journeys start there, at the foot of the Acropolis, no trip to Greece is fully realised sans a voyage out to its mythic-meets-idyllic isles.

But getting to those islands isn’t always especially convenient. Unless you charter a private flight or are lucky enough to command a private yacht, you are relegated to a crowded ferry ride with the hoi polloi. This summer, that’s all changing.

Hoper’s choppers will fly to 11 remote destinations in the Aegean Islands. Photo by Hoper

In May, an Athens-based aviation company launched the nation’s first and only commercial helicopter service dubbed Hoper (we hope that they mean hop). Unlike the existing charter services, it runs regularly scheduled flights from Athens to the pearls of the Aegean.

In less than 45 minutes, scenic helicopter flights depart from Athens and touch down at Mykonos and Santorini, as well as Antiparos, Folegandros, Ios, Kea, Patmos, Sifnos, Patmos, Spetses and Tinos. All of those destinations are now pre-bookable online as one-way or round-trip seats, starting at roughly US$160 per leg and going up to just US$375.

“It became obvious that by flying there were significant savings in terms of time, but that at the same time it wasn’t hugely expensive if you shared the cost with other flyers,” Dimitris Kossyfas, COO of Hoper, told Robb Report. “There is a need to be able to travel between the Greek islands and between Athens and the islands in a more efficient manner.”

The helicopters will take off from Athens, Mykonos, and other islands. Photo by Hoper

That’s putting it lightly. Say you want to go from Athens to Patmos. With Hoper, it’s not a direct flight (yet): you’ll need to fly Athens to Mykonos and then onward and it takes about an hour and a half. But what’s the alternative? An overnight ferry that takes nine to 10 hours, that’s what. Even if you book a commercial airplane flight to another island (like Mykonos), you’ll face a taxi ride to change ports and then a ferry. It’s a similar story for Folegandros, and many others.

With bases in Koropi in Athens, Mykonos and Santorini, Hoper is creating these time savings with a fleet of five glass-cockpit Robinson R44 and R66 helicopters with three- and four-passenger capacities. Operating year-round, the company will likely expand to mainland destinations during the off-season, like the Delphi archaeological site and Monemvasia in the  Peloponnese, says Kossyfas, who runs the service with CEO Dimitris Memos.

“Affluent people who have a house in one of the islands usually either fly to a destination and then take their speedboat, or go directly from Athens on their boat. The helicopter is much more efficient in terms of cost and in terms of time,” says Kossyfas, noting that the boat fuel alone could be more than the cost of the helicopter flight.

The summer schedule includes a 42-minute flight to the rugged island of Tinos. Photo by Getty

While popular islands like Mykonos and Santorini might not notice the impact of the new flight service, smaller islands that were once inconvenient to access certainly will. Now, what’s to stop the crowd that always settled for Santorini deciding to look off the beaten path to islands more pristine? But Kossyfas says that, at least for now, Hoper won’t upset the balance of island power.

“We aren’t there yet because of the low capacity of the helicopters,” says Kossyfas. “It’s one, maximum two, flights per day with four people. It cannot have a significant footprint yet. But eventually it does create a new opportunity.”

This story was first published on Robb Report USA