The two airports of Heraklion and Chania are found on the island of Crete, which is the largest of the Greek islands, and a very popular destination for local and international holiday makers, as Crete is famous for its beautiful beaches and historical attractions. Heraklion is the larger of the two, handling just over five million passengers per year, while Chania is smaller, with approximately two million passengers per annum. Alternative names for the two airports are Nikos Kazantzakis (Heraklion) and Loannis Daskalogiannis (Chania). The names are in honour of a famous Greek writer and philosopher, and a heroic rebel of the 18th century who fought against the Ottoman Empire. The airports are also known by their official codes of HER and CHQ.
Heraklion and Chania are both found along the northern coastline, with Chania a little further to the west of the island. Heraklion is approximately 5 km from the city of Heraklion, or Iraklion (Iraklio), which is the capital city of Crete, and the financial hub of the region, while Chania Airport is located between 10 and 14 km from the city centre of Chania. Chania, or Hania (Khania), is the second largest city on the island, and the centre of commerce and culture for Western Crete. Chania Airport is also nearby Souda Bay, on the Akrotiri peninsula. The National Highway, or E75, runs along the northern coast, and provides a convenient connection to all the main towns and cities of the region. It is also one of the main access roads to Heraklion. While the National Highway will lead motorists to Chania, the Chanion Aerodromiou heading slightly northwards is the main road to use for Chania.
As the primary airport of Crete, Heraklion is served by a wider variety of airline companies. However, the low-cost airline carriers which mainly offer seasonal flights to and from Crete are popular at both airports. They include Air Berlin, Easyjet, Thomas Cook Airlines, Germanwings and Thomson Airways. Some of the destinations served by these airline carriers are the London airports of Luton, Stansted and Gatwick, and other UK cities, such as Birmingham and Manchester, as well as Hamburg, Zurich, Glasgow-International and Rome-Fiumicino. Ryanair is perhaps the most popular low-cost airline carrier at many airports in Europe, and is often referred to as ‘the world’s favourite airline’. Ryanair offers flights to Hahn and Milano-Orio al Serio from Chania, but does not, at present, have flights to Heraklion. Other airline companies found at these two airports include Air Méditerranée, Air One, Austrian Airlines, Blue Air, Luxair, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Smart Wings, as well as Olympic Air, Aegean Airlines and Sky Express, which offer year-round flights to Athens, the capital city of Greece on the mainland.
Both the airports of Chania and Heraklion consist of single terminal buildings, which are reasonably equipped to handle all arrivals and departures of domestic, international and charter flights. However, Heraklion has two runways, while Chania has just one lengthy runway of 3,350 meters. Although the airport facilities within either of the terminals are not vast, both Heraklion and Chania offer banking and currency exchange services, cash machines, post offices, medical services and baby rooms. Neither airport offers any conferencing or business facilities and services of any kind, but there are VIP lounges in the departure areas. Duty free shops are present at the airports, as well as a small number of other retail outlets, and restaurants and snack bars. Additional facilities include information desks, tourist help desks, travel agents and hotel reservation services. Chania and Heraklion are reasonably equipped for use by disabled passengers, or passengers with reduced mobility challenges. There are suitable toilet facilities for wheelchair bound passengers, pavement ramps and reserved parking spaces. Passengers may also request further assistance from their airline company in advance of their flight to or from the airports.
The KTEL Bus Company provides transport within and to all the main towns and cities of Crete, and also provides access to Heraklion and Chania. To both airports, the buses are available from the bus terminals within their respective cities, and are a convenient and comfortable way to travel to the airports. The buses are available in the alternative direction as well, from just outside the arrival areas. However, the bus services are much more frequent from Heraklion, approximately one every few minutes, but from Chania, there are only about three services per day. During times of no buses, passengers will need to catch a taxi to their next destination. Taxis are always available from both airports, and their fares are considered to be extremely reasonable, especially when compared to the fares charged by taxis in other European cities. Another form of transport on the island are the ferries, available from the ports of both Heraklion and Chania. There are no train services available.
Although bus services are the most economical means of transport on the island, many passengers arriving at Heraklion and Chania prefer to rent a car. The car hire companies of Avis, Hertz, Budget, Easycar, Europcar, Sixt and Auto Europa are present within the arrivals area of the two airports, and National, Alamo, Thrifty and Dollar offer their services from Heraklion as well. A rented car is the best way to explore the island. Motorists travelling to the airports in their own vehicles will find adequate parking facilities. Paid parking at Chania for long and short-term parking, and free short-term parking at Heraklion. Although Heraklionhas provided a valuable air gateway for many years, it is soon to come to an end, as a new airport is planned for construction at Kastelli Pediados. The newer, more modern and larger airport will replace the current Heraklion, and will handle between five and ten million passengers per year. Its opening is scheduled for the beginning of the tourist season in 2015. No definite plans for Chania are in place, but it is most likely that the airport will need expansion due to the increasing number of passengers each year.
Heraklion and Chania both currently provide an excellent arrival point for visitors and tourists, as well as for business professionals.