Flying the European Coastal Airlines Seaplane with a Small Dog!
We are not luxury travellers. I have seen many blogs out there about the luxurious goodies on offer in the travel business. Our pockets are not deep and we rarely, if ever, get to feel like jet-setters. We aren’t budget travellers either, but we certainly are not flying first class or staying at 5-star hotels, flitting from mansion to mansion, sipping fancy drinks. No.
But, every now and then, something comes along that allows you to feel like you are jetting in that set. Sure it’s a bit of a mirage, but who doesn’t like to feel like that they are enjoying the finer things in life from time to time? Illusionary or not.
While we were in Split, Mom kept saying to Dad that she was kinda bummed out that Pula was too far away. At a 6-hour or more drive from Split, Pula just didn’t make sense as a day trip. And with it not being on our travel route — in fact, it is totally out of the Dalmatian region — Mom was resigned to not seeing the big coliseum there. That is until one day, while sipping mint tea and honey in our little cozy apartment, Mom saw an ad for the European Coastal Airlines (ECA). Split has seaplanes!
“Never been on a seaplane. Wonder if they are pet friendly …” she mused out loud, triggering a coughing fit from her cold.
“What are you talking about, hon?” Dad said looking up from the laptop.
“This,” Mom said, pointing to the ad on the back of the local walking tour map we had picked up at the tourist office.
“Well … I think I saw their offices near the cruise ship area on the promenade. We could go ask a few questions tomorrow if you like?”
Mom nodded and that was that.
The next day, we headed out and found the office easily enough. It was a fun set up: a sort of shipping container upgrade complete with fancy glass doors and a deck!
The bipeds walked in and asked, first, if the seaplane service was pet friendly. With a big grin, the attendant assured us that, yes, absolutely they are. They adhere to the same rules as most airlines. A dog in a carrier can travel in-cabin. They do not, however, have a cargo area, so no big dogs. But little me? That would not be a problem.
Dad and Mom looked at each other. Dad asked, “How much to Pula and back? And can we do a back-and-forth the same day?”
At about $100 a person, it wasn’t something completely crazy out of our range. And if we left with the first morning flight around 7:00 a.m., we could return at either 3:30 p.m. or on the later flight in the evening. The attendant assured us that returning about 3:30–4:00 would give us loads of time to walk about. We asked if we needed to book ahead of time and she said it was recommended.
Ordering a coffee to think things over while sitting on the little patio, the bipeds chatted. It certainly would be a first for all of us. And a fun blog post too. Should we? Did we have it in the budget? Dad did a little mental math and declared, “I think we can pull it off. It’s close, but yes … I think we can.”
And so it was, Dear Reader, that we booked our seaplane ride from Split to Pula and back for the next day. I was so excited, and honestly, so were the bipeds! We love new adventures and just love finding new pet-friendly ways to get around. So this was just up our alley!
The next morning, we returned to the shipping container offices, still charmed by the fun and modern set-up. Dad got a coffee while Mom got me weighed inside my carrier.
I got my boarding pass and a little tag with the bag weight printed on it. The bipeds got their boarding passes too. (Why do humans not have to be weighed, anyway?!) We booked our return flight for later that afternoon. While we waited for the seaplane to arrive, I got loads of cuddles by the staff. Mom read the vision statement on the wall:
To simplify the life of Croatian islanders as well as revolutionize Croatian transportation by offering safe, reliable, and affordable seaplane connections.
Our vision is to allow passengers to travel to some of the most remote and exclusive islands in the Adriatic, in style and in comfort. Our service extends past the summer months as we offer passengers year-round connections throughout Croatia’s Adriatic.
Then we heard the distinct sound that seaplanes make as they arrive. We watched the seaplane fly over the marina, overshoot our spot, and then turn about. We watched it get lower and lower until … plop! Like magic, the seaplane hit the water and then, in a noisy and happy bumble-bee hum, propelled itself to us.
We boarded. The captain helped the bipeds in and exclaimed, “My first canine passenger! That’s cool!” And that is when we discovered that we were the only passengers on that morning flight.
We had the entire seaplane to ourselves! It was AWESOME! We felt like a million bucks. I liked having a seat all to myself.
And the bipeds got a little goofy and giddy with the joy of it.
Of note, seaplanes are noisy! So when the engine started, I got a little shaky. Soon enough though, I realized nothing bad was going to happen and settled down. It reminded me a bit of the airboat noise. Engines are annoyingly loud, Dear Reader.
But the views from the seaplane are incredible.
Because you are flying at a much lower altitude, you get to see everything — even on a grey and overcast day. I noticed fish farms, sailboats, and tiny-to-larger islands dotting the coastline. It was beautiful. Really beautiful.
In less than an hour, we landed in Pula. There, a single container acted as the seaplane stop. We headed out to discover the town.
Our way home was much the same, but for a snag or two. After boarding the plane, we found out we would land midflight on an island to refuel. That was actually a fun experience, but it did add about 20 minutes to our flight time. And then … then we sat and waited because really, really bad weather was coming and it was right in our flight path.
After a lot of radio communication back and forth, we finally took off again. Our pilot was really nice about it and the three Croatian business men on board with us were loudly and cheerfully cheering us onwards. We thought we might have to land about 40 minutes inland from Split and be bussed in as a work-around the looming, massive storm, but our pilot decided that it was just safe enough to make a go of it.
In the pouring rain and under dark heavy grey skies, our little plane landed safe and sound in Split. In a way, I am glad this happened because I learned about their work-arounds for these events — about bussing passengers in or using ferries if the skies are not safe. I would never have known to even ask had we not experienced the possibility first hand.
We are absolutely thrilled we did this. It’s been six months since that flight and we still talk about it. We love the idea and hope that the seaplane is a huge success. It’s relatively new, being just launched in 2000. I think it is the best and fastest way to get around and I know that ECA wants to connect all 66 inhabited islands. It’s good for business men and tourists alike! And hey, there’s talk of connecting to Monaco, Italy, and Greece!
You got this, ECA! I know that we certainly are fans and will continue to keep an eye out! Flying the European Coastal Airlines Seaplane with a small dog is easy, fun and worth every penny!