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article imageHydroplanes in Croatia imminent: Interview with ECA CEO Special

By Paul Bradbury     Jul 1, 2014 in Travel
Hvar - After 13 years of paperwork, a true revolution in Croatian tourism is imminent. Digital Journal meets European Coastal Airlines boss Klaus Dieter Martin.
With the tourist season in Croatia in full swing, the launch of Europe's first modern scheduled seaplane service is finally ready for launch; Digital Journal caught up with European Coastal Airlines CEO Captain Klaus Dieter Martin over a cappuccino in the pretty resort of Jelsa on the island of Hvar on July 1, 2014, to find out the latest.
Captain Martin is on the final leg of a marathon battle with the notorious Croatian bureaucracy, dating back some 13 years. His vision for the future of Croatian aviation, combined with his determination to succeed, is impressive indeed.
With their ability to land on sea and land  the ECA fleet will provide the ultimate flexibility for ...
With their ability to land on sea and land, the ECA fleet will provide the ultimate flexibility for Croatian transport
European Coastal Airlines
1. It has been a long 13-year battle with Croatian bureaucracy, but you are almost there. What is the latest situation?
We are all set and ready. The final bureaucratic procedures need to be finalised, but we are now counting the days until we will revolutionise Croatian public transportation and set a milestone in European transport infrastructure.
2. The Krilo catamaran service from Split to Hvar will stop suddenly tomorrow at the height of the season in what appears to be political move. How confident are you that you can avoid such local petty politics?
CEO Klaus Dieter Martin with an ECA Twin Otter at Split Airport
CEO Klaus Dieter Martin with an ECA Twin Otter at Split Airport
European Coastal Airlines
I do not have all insights to judge the reasons for stopping Krilo, I am only sorry for all parties involved, especially the islanders and tourists alike. Hvar is a prime destination not only in Croatia, but in the Mediterranean, and it needs a diverse way of transportation of high standard for people to commute from the mainland to the island. We will add another alternative, which will be a time-saver (only 13 minutes from Split Airport to Jelsa on Hvar, for example) and a game-changer for transportation in Croatia. We are well prepared and doing all we need to fulfil local, national and European laws and regulations. It is a fact, that for example in safety and security related fields we are exceeding these rules. We are in close touch with all administrations involved and happy to say that we appreciate the co-operation a lot. Everyone sees the benefits of a seaplane operation.
Klaus Dieter Martin  CEO of European Coastal Airlines
Klaus Dieter Martin, CEO of European Coastal Airlines
European Coastal Airlines
3. Split airport to the island of Hvar four times a day in just 13 minutes sounds like a tourist's dream. Can you give a little more detail about your initial network?
Initially we will connect Split Airport with Jelsa/Hvar at least four times daily. Jelsa will be connected directly with Ancona twice daily. The northern network will connect the destinations of Zadar (initially Airport), Rab, Pula, Zagreb Airport and Ancona. As soon as possible we will add further locations, such as Lastovo, Rijeka, Dubrovnik, Korcula, Mljet and many more. We are receiving frequent requests from authorities directly to fly to their locations and we will develop the locations accordingly.
4. With the flexibility of the hydroplane's ability to land on sea and land, it will be possible to fly from the island of Hvar to the capital of Zagreb, for example. Can you explain how that would work?
As our schedule will be harmonised it will be possible to fly i.e. from Zagreb to Ancona via Rab. Or as you mentioned from Jelsa to Zagreb (via Split and Rab). We see strong potential for the route Pula - Split as well (via Rab). Our passengers with connecting flights will receive a complimentary drink in the layover destination (waiting time on average 30 min). The best thing about this is that you do not wait in an anonymous terminal of an airport somewhere. But next to the sea, with a breathtaking view. How cool is that?
The final touches are being applied to Jelsa s extended waterfront  a key location for the hydroplan...
The final touches are being applied to Jelsa's extended waterfront, a key location for the hydroplane operation
5. Any clues on which route will be the maiden flight?
It depends a lot on which locations will be ready first. As mentioned before we are ready, our reservation system is ready, and we at ECA cannot wait to kick-off flight operations. But your business is based in a village with great potential to be the first (this Digital Journalist lives in Jelsa on the island of Hvar). But you have to welcome us appropriately ;)
The initial ECA network will connect Italy and Croatian islands directly  with more ambitious future...
The initial ECA network will connect Italy and Croatian islands directly, with more ambitious future plans to change the way people travel in Croatia
European Coastal Airlines
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