Greek Islands: Business Aviation Destination Guide
Ops update: On April 19, 2021, Greece officially opened to the U.S., EU, and UK this week with NO RESTRICTIONS for vaccinated travelers. For Greece, parking is booked no more than 2 weeks prior to arrival on a first come/served basis, so we need to be ready to grab you a spot the minute your booking window opens. Universal Aviation Greece can help.
ALERT: For the latest Greece COVID travel restrictions visit our article on Europe COVID Ops.
June through September is always peak season for Greece creating congestion. Airports throughout the country – both mainland and islands – are inundated with traffic from all over the world. Due to the congestion, authorities are implementing restrictions to accommodate for the influx, which is affecting general aviation (GA).
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
Popular Greek Islands
Popular island and coastal destinations in Greece include Santorini (LGSR), Mikonos (LGMK), Corfu (LGKR), Rhodes (LGRP), Chania (LGSA), Iraklion (LGIR), Kefallinia (LGKF), Preveza (LGPZ) and Thessaloniki (LGTS). Note that LGPZ is a military airport that’s now accepting commercial and GA traffic and requires, as published by NOTAM, a lead time of four working days and a minimum 48 hours prior notice to process prior permission required (PPR). In general, a PPR for any joint military/civil airport requires a minimum lead-time of four working days.
While airport overtime had been possible in the past, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has implemented a regulation prohibiting overtime, other than for air ambulance and approved diplomatic flights. Note that your ground handler will always request overtime for your schedule, on an as needed basis. However, authorities are very strict on this regulation and will only approve it for specific cases.
Many airports in Greece require airport slots during the summer season. As these are high traffic airports, there is a high demand for services such as slots. Once approved, the slot deviation is +/- 20 minutes, but operators need to be flexible based on slot availability. Additionally, if an operator isn’t going to use the slots, they need to be cancelled at least 12 hours prior in order to avoid penalties.
Note that airport slots can be requested up to 28 days prior to arrival. In Greece, slots are coordinated by a central slot office and not normally issued by local airport authorities.
This can be a concern because, even though an airport manager may approve your operation, the flight cannot take place if the slot coordinator has not approved your slot. Due to high congestion at popular destinations during peak season, particularly July and August weekends, you may not be able to secure slot times you request. For example, some airports only provide four slots per hour, and you may find nothing available at your preferred time of operation. More information on airport slots for operations to Greece can be found on our article titled “UPDATE: Regulatory Changes for Greece: New GA Airport Slot Requirements.”
Slot processing and penalties
The national slot coordinator is on duty Monday-Friday 0830-1630 local. Slots may be requested up to 28 days in advance, and requests are submitted in general aviation clearance request (GCR) format. Once approved, slots are valid for +/- 20 minutes. All slot coordinated airports will be reflected on the online coordination system (OCS) system for weekend slot requests. Penalties for operating without a slot range from 2,000 – 30,000 Euros. If you operate without a valid slot, a violation notice will be issued, and you’ll need to respond within five days. Authorities then review your reply and advise if you’ll receive a fine and the amount of the fine. Note that the fine determination process can take up to three months to complete.
Last-minute slot requests
When the national slot coordination office is closed, over the weekend and outside of regular hours, it is possible to utilize the OCS to obtain slots. For last-minute weekend operations, only the PPR is a requirement, where slots are optional.
PPR is needed for all slot controlled airports and must be obtained prior to requesting airport slots. Be mindful that airport slot mandates are often in place only during the summer season, and not required off-season. By regulation lead time for a PPR request is 48 hours, but many locations will confirm PPRs within a few hours, during airport operating hours. However, in the case of LGPZ the full 48 hours notification is always necessary. Mikonos (LGMK) always tends to be slower than other locations in approving PPRs. Be mindful that LGMK is so congested during high season that air traffic control (ATC) may only allow you to stay on the ground for up to one hour. PPR tolerance in Greece is normally +/-30 minutes. Once the PPR is approved you’ll receive a 10-digit confirmation which must be placed in remarks section 18 of your flight plan. Note that airport slots may only be requested after your PPR has been confirmed.
Airport parking is always in high demand during the peak summer season. The Greek Islands have limited parking and some only permit a maximum of 60 minutes on the ground. Two such examples are Santorini (LGSR) and Mykonos (LGMK), where for any drop offs or pick-ups, you won’t be permitted to remain more than the maximum 60 minutes on the ground.
Many popular destinations in Greece cannot provide overnight GA parking due to limited parking stands. Some locations have issued NOTAMs requiring 48 hours’ notice for any GA operating request.
For example, LGMK has only three-four parking spots to accommodate both scheduled commercial and GA aircraft, and there is a NOTAM that limits GA parking to just one hour on the ground June through September. While drop and goes are always an option at LGMK, you’ll need to carefully juggle the schedule based on available PPRs and airport slots.
Zakynthos (LGZA) has just three GA parking spots, and these are usually reserved weeks in advance. Be mindful that operating flexibility is restricted by night curfews at many airports while slot availability is very limited at others. Best option in Greece for overnight and longer term parking is LGAV, a 24-hour airport of entry (AOE) with no slot requirements and plenty of parking space.
Repositioning aircraft on the mainland
Airports on the mainland have traditionally been used as reposition parking for aircraft that can’t remain on the ground. Many of these airports have received a large uptick in scheduled commercial traffic. This influx has made parking an issue for these airports, especially for GA aircraft.
Many airports are experiencing situations where no parking is available or they are limited the permitted time on the ground. The parking situation is always influx and what is available now may not be an option later that day due to the amount of requests for parking these airport authorities are receiving.
Athens (LGAV) airport authorities have now issued a NOTAM for this season advising that any GA operator looking to stay at this airfield for more than two hours will need to apply for a prior permission required (PPR).
For assistance with parking in Greece, contact Universal Aviation Greece.
Advance notification is advised when operating to popular smaller airports. Be aware of restricted operating hours at smaller airfields, and confirm if overtime arrangements are possible. If aircraft parking is not available, drop-and-go will be permitted. Due to limited aircraft parking availability at some outlying airports, you may encounter issues with schedule changes.
When requesting ground handling, it’s important to provide full schedule, operator name, aircraft type and registry, maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) and – if known – passenger and crew names. While smaller airports have certain limitations in terms of GA support services and infrastructure, adequate handling and credit can be set up with sufficient pre-planning. We recommend notifying ground handlers of arrivals at least 48 hours prior to the estimated time of arrival (ETA).
Most visitors to the Greek Islands proceed directly from their aircraft to their destination and do not linger at the airport. Crew usually reposition the aircraft to larger airports with available parking on the mainland. Therefore, the islands do not have or need a traditional western-style FBO.
None of the popular Greek Isle airports have general aviation terminals (GAT), so you’ll clear CIQ in the main passenger terminal. Mikonos does have a small lounge that can be reserved for an additional fee.
Your ground handler will submit passenger and crew data in advance and escort passengers and crew with luggage to the terminal for clearance. Ground handlers usually arrange priority passport control and screening for GA operations.
Summer in Greece is far busier than winter, and it will not always be possible to book accommodations at specific hotels. If you’re looking for a particular hotel in Greece during high season, it’s best to book at least a couple of weeks in advance. Otherwise, your ground handler will be able to source alternate 4- and 5-star options in most cases. It’s rare for hotel accommodations, in any area of Greece, to completely sell out. Be aware, however, that room rates are much higher during July and August at popular Greek island locations.
Crew accommodation can be extremely limited, and enormously expensive, at certain island locations during high season. For example, if you’re able to find crew accommodations at LGSR you may need to split up at different hotels and room prices could be several hundred Euros/night. The going rate for high season 4-star crew accommodations at most popular island destinations is about 350 Euros/night.
In terms of local travel, prepaid transport (car with driver) options are often scarce and may not be available on particular days. Vehicle selection is limited and rather than limos or SUVs you’ll likely end up in mini buses. For those planning to use public taxis, it’s best to arrange this via your ground handler or hotel, to ensure prices are fixed. We do not recommend rental vehicles for crews not familiar with the region as traffic can be chaotic, road signage is limited and parking can be difficult.
While most airports in Greece have Jet A-1 available, there are limited options in terms of fuel providers. Be aware that GA uplift delays are relatively common during peak travel days as scheduled commercial operations always take priority. As peak operating hours vary airport to airport it’s best to confirm these periods in advance. For example, Mondays and Fridays are often peak arrival/departure periods. In the case of LGMK, Saturday is one of the slowest days of the week as most GA arrivals occur before this and stay over the weekend.
Security and/or safety concerns for those visiting the Greek Isles are no different from such issues in other European countries. It’s always best to practice basic security awareness.
Expect to clear CIQ in the main terminal along with scheduled commercial passengers. Priority clearance may be possible to arrange, at CIQ’s discretion, to allow you to clear at a separate counter in the main clearance hall. If the flight is arriving from or departing to a European Union (EU) location, no passport control or customs are applicable; however, you’ll need to present identification. The clearance process is usually no more than one to two minutes per passenger on arrival, and three to four minutes on departure. For operations to/from non-EU destinations, passport control and customs are applicable, and the clearance process typically requires five minutes per passenger.
Peak season/high traffic events
June through September is always peak season for Greece creating congestion. Airports throughout the country – both mainland and islands – are inundated with traffic from all over the world. Due to the congestion, authorities have implemented restrictions to accommodate for the influx, which is affecting general aviation (GA).
When operating to popular destinations in Greece between April and September it’s important to consider access and parking limitations along with airport curfews. Short notice requests may be a challenge to operate on your planned schedule and to park overnight at preferred destinations. However, providing advanced notice for operations to these popular destinations will allow your 3rd-party provider and ground handler to provide you with additional options. Hotels can be a concern for certain high traffic destinations, especially at short notice.
Business aircraft operators need to be diligent on prior permission required (PPR) and airport slot coordination when operating to popular Greek islands during peak season (April – September). Overnight parking at many locations will be almost impossible to obtain. So, be prepared to drop, go and reposition. Airport slots can be a concern for high traffic destinations, so it’s recommended that advance arrangements are made.
When scheduling flights to popular Greek holiday destinations during peak travel season it’s important to plan as far in advance as possible. Use all available resources, including your 3rd-party provider and ground handlers, to be aware of all operational considerations, restrictions and recommended Plan B contingency strategies. Be aware that airport slots may not be available for your requested schedule, and if you operate without one you will face a fine. Also, it’s important to obtain your PPR in advance, and only after it’s approved can you request airport slots. However, with advanced notice more slot options are available for your flight, so it’s always recommended to take advantage of this.