Just over six months after it inaugurated the first scheduled seaplane service in modern European aviation history
, European Coastal Airlines touched down in the harbour of Dubrovnik on March 10, 2015, on a presentation flight which also included visits to Korcula Town and the island of Lastovo, before its scheduled return to Split Airport.
After 14 years of battling bureaucracy, ECA CEO Captain Klaus Dieter Martin appeared in front of the media after the plane landed in Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is a key part of the ECA network, and the 50-minute flight from Split Airport to downtown Dubrovnik will significantly reduce travel times, as well as providing a spectacular panoramic viewing experience for passengers.
After Dubrovnik, the plane went to the island of Korcula — a short 20-minute flight to Korcula Town, birthplace of Marco Polo, and one destination which is set to benefit with excellent connectivity both to Dubrovnik but also the Dalmatian capital Split, where flight times are estimated at about 25 minutes.
In keeping with the ECA commitment to ultimately service all inhabited islands, next stop was the island of Lastovo, one of Dalmatia's most beautiful but least connected islands, and the seaplane connection should significantly boost the island's tourism.
As the 2015 season approaches, the prospect of connecting Dubrovnik to the Istrian city of Pula, and even Ancona in Italy, is enticing, allowing tourists to finally overcome the poor infrastructure to enable a true island-hopping experience.
The town of Jelsa on Hvar was the first to receive a flight last August, and the community bond between the airline and the town has developed well, and ECA treated its schoolchildren
to a free educational panoramic flight, while the town responded in kind by making the seaplanes the main theme of their annual carnival
While the sight of seaplanes in Dubrovnik, Korcula and Lastovo will raise hopes that these destinations will be ready for the 2015 season, it should be stressed that this was a presentation flight for the authorities, and there are some bureaucratic hurdles to be overcome before ECA can expand its network south and significantly improve the tourism transfer experience.