Finally! A Helicopter Service for Croatia Based on Brac for 2017

By , 08 Feb 2017, 13:10 PM Travel

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A fabulous addition to Croatia's luxury tourism offer for 2017, with the announcement that Brac Airport will be the home of a helicopter offering transfers to Hvar, Split, Dubrovnik, Montenegro and other destinations. TCN caught up with Airways Charter CEO Laura Protat on February 7, 2017, to learn more. 

Finally!

The potential of Croatia to be one of the elite destinations in Europe, but look a little closer, and some details are missing, one of the most glaring being the ease of luxury transportation around the country, and particularly to the islands. 

In 2013, shortly after Croatia's entry into the EU, a Swiss R-44 helicopter arrived at the airfield of Stari Grad on Hvar, with plans to offer luxury transfers to passengers willing to pay. Stari Grad to Dubrovnik Airport and waiting private plan in 50 minutes was one of the transfers we handled in the brief time that the Swiss operation was on Hvar. The business model was good, the pricing reasonable, but they had reckoned without one thing:

Our old friend Croatian bureaucracy. 

Promises from the Ministry of Transport for the appropriate licences to land outside of regular airports failed to materialise, and the final straw seemed to be when Split Airport refused to let the helicopter land on a Saturday - the key transfer day - as it claimed it was too busy to handle the arrival of a four-seater helicopter. 

And so the helicopter options remained scarce. There was a local company, perhaps still is, although I never heard of it flying after its lone helicopter was involved in a crash a few years ago. 

Seaplanes came in 2014, finally connecting some islands with the mainland. Jelsa to Split Airport and downtown Split was a dream. And although European Coastal Airlines has announced it will resume operations shortly after suspending them in October, an ongoing lawsuit against the Croatian Civil Aviation Authority is but one obstacle muddying those waters. 

Enter Airways Charter, part of a international company successfully running helicopter and private plane operations in Australia, UK, Spain and Montenegro. 

And - from May 1, 2017, if not sooner - from sunny Croatia as well, when the company will have an R-66 helicopter based on Brac.

Ah Brac Airport, the rising star of island tourism. Almost close a few years ago, this year Brac will see direct flights from Brussels, and now with an awaiting helicopter for onward travel. Connected to the world and with the rest of Dalmatia open for speedy transfer. 

I spoke to CEO Laura Protat by phone earlier today to get some more concrete information about the company's plans. Here is what I found out. 

One Robinson R-66, with payload of 600kg, will be stationed on Brac. It will be able to transport four passengers with luggage. Operations are planned to begin from May 1 until August 31, although they could start sooner, and will obviously continue later if the business is successful. 

The company already does transfers from Montenegro to Dubrovnik Airport, which is convenient for guests wanting to transfer to Porto Montenegro. The price of a one-way flight, which takes 15 minutes, is 900 euro. They are working on options to have a helipad option close to the city.

A flight from Tivat to the company base on Brac would take about an hour and cost 1400 euro. International transfers to places like the Stari Grad airfield on Hvar are also possible, although a brief stop on Brac would be necessary to clear customs, but flights such as Dubronik Airport to Stari Grad would be possible. 

The company is also planning to offer panorama flights, with a popular one bound to be Bol, Stari Grad, Hvar Town and the Pakleni Islands. A variation from Stari Grad is also planned. These scenic tours will be priced at 450 euro per flights, so a little over 100 euro per person. 

It all sounds rather exciting for the luxury end of Croatian tourism for 2017, and it is a story that we will follow closely at TCN. More news shortly.

 

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Croatia Traffic Info

  • The roads are wet and slippery in Lika mountain area and in Dalmatia. Rock and land sliding is possible on the DC1 state road through Lika as well as on the DC8 Adriatic road. Traffic is dense in cities and on their detour roads. During the day difficulties can be expected in roadwork areas. Tonight (27 February) 7pm-6am traffic is suspended on the A6 Rijeka-Zagreb motorway between Delnice and Oštrovica junctions in direction Rijeka, detour: DC3/DC501 state roads. In Učka tunnel in Istria one lane is free only every night 10pm-6am till 3/4 March. Drivers are invited to keep distance and to adjust the speed to road conditions. The headlights have to be on during the day as well. One lane is free only/traffic is flowing in reduced lanes on the following motorways:-A1 Zagreb-Split-Ploče at Božići viaduct in direction Split, between Novigrad and Karlovac junctions 42nd-40th km in direction Zagreb, at Rašćane viaduct in direction Dubrovnik; -A3 Bregana-Lipovac between Kutina and Novska junctions 118th-121st km in both directions; -A4 Zagreb-Goričan at Kraljevečki Novaki junction 93rd-94th km in both directions till 13 March; -A4 Zagreb-Goričan in Hrastovec tunnel in both directions 1-11 March; -A6 Rijeka-Zagreb at Svilno viaduct 78th-80th km between Orehovica and Čavle junctions in each direction till 1 June, in Vršek tunnel in direction Zagreb; -Rijeka detour road in the exit lane of Rujevica junction in direction Rupa till 16 March; -A8 in Istria on the section Lupoglav-Učka tunnel. Due to winter driving conditions there is a traffic ban on freight vehicles with trailers and all other vehicles have to use the winter equipment in Lika mountain area on the DC42 at Poljanak. Due to roadworks traffic is suspended: -on the DC1 state road in Lučko and Stupnik (Zagreb); -on the DC8 Adriatic road at Posedarje till 10 April; -on the DC6 state road, section Glina-Dvor border crossing till 15 March, detour: Glina (DC37)-Petrinja-Hrvatska Kostajnica-Dvor; -on the DC34 Valpovo-Josipovac state road; -on the DC206 Valentinovo-Petrovsko state road; -on the DC228 Jurovski Brod-Ozalj-Karlovac state road at Ozalj. Traffic is regulated by traffic signals/one road lane is free only:-on the DC1 state road at Tušilović; -on the DC1 Sinj-Klis Grlo state road at Dicmo; -on the DC8 Adriatic road on the section Kaštel Stari-Kaštel Gomilica, at Podstrana, on the section Zaton Doli-Bistrina, at Srebreno; -on the DC66 Pula-Most Raša state road; -on the DC75 Poreč detour road, section Vrvari-Bijela; -on the DC303 Rovinjsko Selo-Brajkovići-Kurili state road. 15 November 2016-15 April 2017 winter equipment is mandatory on the winter sections of the state roads in Croatia (it includes four winter tyres or four summer tyres with chains ready for use).
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  • In outbound freight traffic there are delays at Pasjak. Due to roadworks at Županja and Slavonski Brod border crossings delays can be expected. At Harmica border crossing traffic is allowed for vehicles up to 7,5 tonnes only.
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  • Ferries operate regularly. 9404 Zadar-Rivanj-Sestrunj-Zverinac-Božava-Brbinj catamaran does not stop at Božava port. Today (27 February) Vis-Split ferry departs Vis port at 4.30pm (instead at 3.30pm) and Split port at 7pm (instead at 6.30pm).
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