Planning a Greek Island vacation? If so, you may be able to skip flying through Athens on your way to your Greek island idyll.
While flying to Greece tends to focus on flights to the capital city of Athens or to the large city of Thessaloniki in Northern Greece, there are also many options for direct flights to the Greek islands.
Some of these flight options to the Greek islands are seasonal, focusing on the late spring, summer, and early fall. Many may be charter flights which may not show up on some online flight search services. During the winter, most flights to the Greek islands will take you through Athens, with a few exceptions.
How to Find Flights to the Greek Islands
Only a few Greek island airports have international flights all year round. The islands of Crete, Corfu, and Rhodes are always likely to have a few international flights, though they may be on less well-known airlines with origination points at secondary airports or less-common cities throughout Europe.
When looking online, you'll need to have the IATA airport codes for the Greek islands. Many of these don't make particularly good "sense", having little to do with either the name of the Greek island or the name of the airport on that island, so be careful that you're typing in the right one.
IATA Airport Codes for the Greek Islands
- Crete: Heraklion Airport (HER) - Also called Nikos Kazantzakis Airport; Heraklion is also spelled Iraklion or Iraklio. International flights year round.
- Crete: Chania Airport (CHQ) - Also spelled Hania or, more rarely, Xania. International flights year round.
- Corfu or Kerkyra (CFU or LGKR) - Also called Ioannis Kapodistrias Airport. International flights year round.
- Kefalonia or Cephalonia (KLX)
- Kefalonia or Cephalonia (EFL)
- Kos/Cos (KGS)
- Lemnos (LXS)
- Mykonos Airport (JMK)
- Mytilene/Lesvos (MJT)
- Milos Airport (MLO)
- Rhodes Airport (RHO)
- Samos (SMI)
- Santorini/Thira (JTR)
- Skiathos (JSI)
- Syros Island Airport (JSY)
- Zakynthos (ZTH)
Deals and Discounts on Greek Island Flights
One of the best regular offers comes from Olympic Air. They offer "weekendair" discounts each week, which are, somewhat confusingly, good starting the following Tuesday if you book over the weekend. Usually, there will be four or five discounted flights to or from various Greek islands, plus a couple of international destinations. These are often as low as Euro 30 for a flight from, say, Mykonos to Athens.
But there is an idiosyncrasy - usually the flights from the Greek island TO Athens are a bit more expensive. In part, this is because many people will fly to one island and then continue on by hydrofoil or ferry, so there sometimes is a genuine discrepancy between how many people fly to an island and how many fly away from it. Even so, the prices for a given location are usually very attractive. You can sign up for e-mail alerts from Olympic Air for these deals, which is nice for island hopping, when where you go may not be as important as how cheaply you can move on to a new experience.
Aegean Airlines also offers discounted flights, but as of this writing, Olympic Air is the best organized in offering its discounts on a regular basis. It's a good idea to sign up for alerts from both airlines, especially if your travel plans are flexible.
There Are Sometimes Extra Airplane Seats to Greek Islands
Smaller Greek islands have smaller airports. This shouldn't matter too much when you're booking, but it does. For short runways serving propeller-powered planes, the actual weight of the plane matters. So airlines generally won't sell the last few seats until they know how much other weight is on the plane - deliveries, extra heavy luggage, maybe even the mail. So even if that flight to the Greek island of Milos was sold out when you tried to book, or even if you just checked it when your international flight arrived in Greece, if you're at the airport at the moment it's about to leave, usually about 15-20 minutes before take-off, a last seat or two may suddenly open up.
The other passengers will glare at you thinking you are the reason the plane is late taking off, but that's a small price to pay to get where you need to go.