Cheap flights to Greece and the Greek islands

Flights to Greece are readily available in these days of package holiday tourism which has seen air fares falling and flight numbers soaring in recent years. You can fly direct to mainland Greece and many of the islands from several European destinations, securing a low cost flight either independently or as part of a package deal.

Some of the best budget air fares are to be found on the Internet so it’s worth taking the time to scout around before you hand your money over to a high street agent. The UK currently has more than a dozen airports from which you can fly straight to your Greek holiday destination. These include Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, Bristol, East Midlands, Manchester and Newcastle.

Plumping for a cheap charter flight means you won’t get all the creature comforts of a scheduled service.but just think of all that extra cash you’ll have to spend on ouzo and souvlaki!

If comfort is more important to you than a cheap air fare you’ll probably want to book a scheduled flight. The national airline of Greece, Olympic Airways, serves a worldwide network of destinations including New York, Johannesburg, Sydney, Bahrain and Toronto. If you pay more for an Olympian Executive Class ticket you’ll enjoy all sorts of extra goodies including access to a VIP lounge at Athens and other international airports, priority baggage collection, a choice of menu and an extensive in-flight entertainment programme.

Olympic Airways has regular domestic flights connecting many of the Greek islands but it’s an expensive way to island-hop. You’ll be better off getting a cheap flight to Athens then island-hopping by boat or hunt around for a low-cost plane ticket directly to one of the islands.

Greece has a total of 16 international airports the busiest being, of course, Athens which handles all intercontinental air traffic. Thessaloniki in northern Greece handles both scheduled and charter flights from several European destinations including London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Istanbul. Iraklio Airport on the island of Crete has a scheduled service to and from Amsterdam and also handles a large number of charter flights. Crete also has another international airport at Hania which solely handles charter services.

Other international airports can be found on the islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Kos, Karpathos, Samos, Skiathos, Kefalonia and Zakynthos. These airports are used largely by British, German and Scandinavian package holidaymakers.

To reach the Ionian island of Lefkada you can fly into Aktion International Airport on the west coast of Central Greece. The island is connected to the mainland by a drawbridge and is only a 30-minute bus ride from the airport. The international airport at Hrysoupolis in Macedonia gives easy access to the northernmost of the North Eastern Aegean Islands, Thassos and Samothraki.

flights to greece

Cheap flights to Greece have become more commonplace in recent years as budget airlines have opened up routes not only to Athens but to some of the major islands such as Corfu, Crete, Santorini and Rhodes.

A few years ago Greece flights were confined to Athens, after which travellers headed for the port at Pireaus and a long ferry trip or took an early morining domestic flight to the islands.

Only a few Greek island have airports big enough to take charter flights and it is generally these islands that have attracted the package holiday firms. Islands with airports big enough to take charters have suffered for it. Concrete mixers came out to play; burger joints, cocktail bars and discos shot up as quickly as the prices. Resorts in the vicinity of the airport tend to be the tackiest.

On larger islands like Corfu, Lesbos, Crete and Kos, it is a general rule of thumb that the further you are from the airport the more traditional it gets. On smaller islands, such as Skiathos, an international airport can swamp any chance of an authentic Greek experience.

Most of the smaller islands have an airport runway, but only long enough to take domestic flights, usually from Athens but sometimes from larger islands such as Crete and Rhodes. Most domestic Greek island flights are aimed at commuters, not tourists, and so many take off early morning and return early evening.

Greek airports

Expect long delays at Greek airports, especially at the height of the summer season. Incoming charter flights from all over Europe are often scheduled for the same day; check-in desks open at the same time and baggage handlers will often wait until there is more than one plane to load/unload.

Facilites at Greek aiports are usually a bit thin on the ground. Seating is not usually adequate for the numbers and, though ther is usually a snack bar and gift shop, they are usually very small and provide only the basics. It’s a good idea to take your own refreshments and hats or brollies to provide shade. You may end up standing in the blazing sun for a couple of hours before queues start to move. Myself, I head for the nearest taverna and turn up when the crowds have gone.

International flights to Greece and the Greek islands

There are five major international airports: Athens, Corfu, Heraklion, Kos and Thessaloniki. Standards here tend to be relatively higher than most island airports with good links to ports and decent public transport. The new airport at Athens is the best example. Kos is the odd one out here, having no public transport so your only way out in by hoiday company bus, hire car or taxi.

Charter flights to Greece and the Greek islands

Several islands take charter flights over the summer season (May to Oct) and these include:
IONIAN: Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynthos
AEGEAN: Samos
SPORADES: Skiathos
CYCLADES: Mykonos, Santorini
DODECANESE: Kos, Rhodes
CRETE: Chania, Heraklion
Tourists for Thassos fly to Kavala and those for Lefkas land at Prevezza on the mainland.

Domestic flights for the Greek islands

As well as domestic flights to all the main islands other Greek islands may take domestic flights, usually from Athens. These include:
AEGEAN: Chios, Ikaria, Lemnos, Lesbos
SPORADES: Skyros
CYCLADES: Astipalaia, Milos, Naxos, Paros, Syros
DODECANESE: Karpathos, Kastelorizo, Leros
CRETE: Sita

Olympic Airlines operates almost all domestic flights. You must reserve seats on domestic flights, especially in August or on public holidays. Delays in domestic flights are common and smaller planes cannot take off or land when it is windy.

Passing through a Greek island charter airport can be a dismal experience. Most have nothing but basic facilities. Flights in are not so bad, although you may have to wait for your luggage as airport workers think nothing of waiting for the next flight to arrive to save themselves an extra journey to the terminal building. Charter flights out are nearly always arranged to leave at roughly the same time so airport check-ins are packed, seating sparse and tempers frayed. Flight delays of more than an hour are common.