The first direct flight from the United States will be by Delta Airlines and will arrive at Athens International Airport on March 11, Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias said in an interview on Saturday.

At a television program by national broadcaster ERT, Kikilias said that Delta stopped its direct flights to Athens – traditionally signalling the start of Greece’s tourist season – as late as four days ago, signalling the extension of the tourism season into winter.

“This company stopped its (direct) flights just four days ago, which means that shortly, besides Emirates, American airlines will provide direct flights (to Greece) every month of the year,” the minister said, adding that “it is very important that the extension of the tourism season is not limited to promises but is acted upon.” As he said, a total of 56 flights per week have been declared by the United States and Canada with Athens as their destination, and the number is rising.

The minister also called on the tourism sector to be ready to receive visitors by March 1, and noted that the greatest challenge Greece will face in terms of arrivals is the number of airplane slots at airports. Demand, he explained, will stretch into the night, as flights will be coming from Australia and  China (the latter restricting trips abroad in 2022 due to the pandemic), while talks about flights from the Middle East are also ongoing.  

North Aegean Regional Governor Giorgos Chatzimarkos, also present at the TV program, said that the first direct flight to the region (Rhodes International Airport ‘Diagoras’) will also take place on March 11. The indications for 2023 travel data are so optimistic, he said, that “they almost look too good to be true.”