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Croatia Airlines in domestic expansion

Croatia Airlines will launch new flights within Croatia in cooperation with charter airline Trade Air. Next summer the Croatian carrier will operate flights from Zagreb to Rijeka, Rijeka to Split, Split to Dubrovnik and Dubrovnik to Rijeka. In addition, the airline will maintain flights between Osijek and Zagreb launched this winter season. The new domestic services will operate on behalf of charter airline Trade Air which has leased an Embraer 120 aircraft for the flights from Budapest Air Service with the capacity to seat thirty passengers. The new services will operate under Croatia Airlines’ flight numbers and sales will be carried out by the national carrier. Furthermore, the airline will have a share in part of the revenue.
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Commenting on the new flights, Trade Air CEO, Marko Cvijin, recently said, “Initially we will use an Embraer 120 but we will consider introducing our own aircraft on the route as well. This certainly represents a new segment and strategic turnaround for our company. We are extremely happy that these routes will emphasise a new level of cooperation with Croatia Airlines, considering ticket sales will take place through their distribution system, therefore, making tickets available for sale in all countries and enabling passengers connections through Croatia Airlines’ hub”. The new domestic flights will be launched on April 4. All of them will operate once per week, every Friday, while the Rijeka – Zagreb and Zagreb – Osijek flights, launching on April 6, will operate every Sunday.
Meanwhile, a codeshare agreement signed between Croatia Airlines and United Airlines during the summer, came into effect last week. United has placed its flight numbers on eight of Croatia Airlines’ services within Europe. They include flights from Zagreb to Amsterdam, Brussels, Zurich, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris and London Heathrow as well as the Split – Munich service.

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Dubrovnik cries foul over Croatia frequency cuts

A new feud between Croatia Airlines and Dubrovnik Airport has erupted after it was revealed the airline will cut down on its frequencies between Zagreb and Dubrovnik during the coming 2013/14 winter season. The Croatian carrier recently announced it would discontinue its year long flights from Dubrovnik to Frankfurt and Paris but said it would add more services between the city and the Croatian capital in order to offer better connections to passengers and compensate for the suspensions. However, in its preliminary schedule, the airline will be cutting down on its frequencies compared to last year with local media claiming the Croatian carrier is in breach of its agreement with the Croatian government.

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According to the agreement, Croatia Airlines has a set number of flights it must operate on domestic services until 2016 in order to receive state subsidies. During the winter, Croatia Airlines is obliged to carry out at least 22 weekly flights. The airline plans to operate eighteen this winter. If it goes through with the planned frequency cuts it would be in violation of the agreement. However Croatia Airlines says, “In our agreement with the Ministry for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, a total number of flights needed to be operated is set on a yearlong basis not on a seasonal basis”. Local press has rejected the airline’s claims as false.

Croatia Airlines, which is set to begin its privatisation process later this year, has held several meetings with local authorities in Dubrovnik recently in order to ease the tension caused by the recent announcements of flight suspensions. The CEO of Dubrovnik Airport, Roko Tolić says, “Dubrovnik is becoming more distant during the winter after years of hard work making the airport busy during the slow months. We have a great challenge ahead of us as we can no longer rely on our partner. We understand that Croatia Airlines must undergo restructuring but we will not sit with our hands crossed. We will look for partners elsewhere”. Croatia Airlines says it is still in the process finalising its winter timetable and all frequency changes are still preliminary.

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Croatia Airlines to shed its fleet

Croatia Airlines to shed its fleet

The Croatian Minister for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, Siniša Hajdaš Dončić, announced yesterday that Croatia Airline will have to shed its fleet in order to return to profitability and avoid bankruptcy. The news comes just over a month before the carrier’s busy summer season begins. “We have two possibilities. Either sell one or two aircraft, as well as property owned by the company, or find a strategic partner willing to buy a 25% to 30% stake in the carrier. If we fail to do so the airline will go into bankruptcy. That is something we would certainly want to avoid as it would have unforeseeable consequences on the Croatian economy”, Mr. Hajdaš Dončić said.

It is believed Croatia Airlines has already earmarked the sale of one of its Airbus A320s this summer, leaving the carrier with twelve aircraft. The exit of the jet is also expected to have an impact on the carrier’s summer season network with some routes to be cut. Croatia Airlines is yet to finalise its 2013 summer timetable. Furthermore, the carrier plans to further delay the arrival of four Airbus A319s. Media reports suggest the airline was pressured into ordering the aircraft so the then president of the country, Ivo Sanader, now serving a ten year jail sentence for corruption, could meet then French president Nicholas Sarkozy, who himself is being investigated for several corruption scandals.

Last summer, three consultancy firms advised the airline to retire one of its A320s in order to return to profitability. In contrast to the advised, Croatia Airlines went on to lease a Fokker F100 from Trade Air during the summer months and even used one of Adria’s Airbus jets for some of its weekend flights. At the time, the advisers also shortlisted flights to London Gatwick, Paris, Istanbul, Podgorica, Priština and Copenhagen for suspension unless the routes do not start making money in the foreseeable future.

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Osijek Airport waiting for Croatia Airlines

Osijek Airport waiting for Croatia Airlines

Even though Croatia Airlines has been ordered by the government to launch domestic flights from Osijek Airport this winter, with just over a month left until the season comes to a close, the service is unlikely to materialise. Flights were originally planned to begin in November last year with a leased Embraer EMB120 from Budapest Aircraft Service. In December, the Croatian government ordered its national carrier to launch services from Osijek to Zagreb by the end of 2012. Flights between Osijek and the Croatian capital were to operate five times per week while services to Split were to be inaugurated during the upcoming summer months. It is believed Croatia Airlines is intentionally delaying the lease of the thirty-seat Embraer, to be exclusively used for the route, as the service from Osijek would generate losses.

The Croatian government says it would partially subsidise the flights between Osijek and the capital, adding that such a move would make the service profitable for the national carrier. The Croatian government has the right to order its national carrier to launch flights between cities within the country if the service is deemed vital for socio-economic development. The decision must be respected regardless of whether the route is profitable or not. The CEO of Osijek Airport, Domagoj Marinić, who announced the Croatia Airlines service last summer, now says, “Osijek Airport is ready. In regards to possible launch dates it is up to Croatia Airlines”.

Osijek Airport has been struggling to attract flights since Ryanair gave the airport the flick several years ago. It will see charters to Stuttgart this Easter but lacks any scheduled flights. In 2012 the airport welcomed just over 2.000 passengers, down 90% on 2011. Croatia Airlines has a busy summer ahead as it plans to increase frequencies and add new seasonal and charter flights. However, it plans to operate services this summer with only twelve aircraft

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SkyWork cuts down on EX-YU flights

The Swiss based SkyWork Airlines will suspend services from Berne to Belgrade and cut frequencies on its flights to Zagreb. The airline will discontinue its three weekly service from the Swiss capital to Belgrade at the end of the 2012/2013 winter season, with the final flight operating on Saturday, March 30. The airline, which operates services with mixed equipment (a 72 seat Bombardier Dash 8 and the 31 seat Dornier) hasn’t managed to capitalise on the significant passenger movement between Serbia and Switzerland. Expensive tickets and the recent launch of Wizz Air’s service to Basel further impacted on SkyWork’s loads.

On the other hand, SkyWork will also cut down on frequencies to Zagreb. The airline launched two weekly flights between the two cities at the start of the 2012/2013 winter season in November. Effective immediately the service will now operate once per week, every Saturday, until the end of March. However, SkyWork will continue operating into the Croatian capital with three weekly flights planned for the summer with the Dornier turboprop. SkyWork will operate seasonal summer flights to the Croatian coast.

Over this winter season, besides the service to Bern, Belgrade Airport has enjoyed 21 weekly flights to Zurich and two weekly flights to Basel, with Jat Airways, Swiss International Airlines and Wizz Air all competing on flights to Switzerland. Over the summer, Jat plans to operate ten weekly flights to Zurich, while Swiss will run the service twice per day. Wizz Air will increase frequencies to Basel from two to three times per week. On the other hand, Croatia Airlines maintains double daily flights to Zurich.

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Frequency boost for Serbia – Croatia flights

The Serbian national carrier will operate up to thirteen weekly flights to the Croatian coast this summer season, a notable increase compared to last year. During the summer, Jat will resume its seasonal flights to Pula, Dubrovnik and Split. As was the case in 2012, it will face competition on the Belgrade – Split service from Croatia Airlines. Jat will double its frequencies to Pula and Split from two to four times per week. Services to Split will launch on June 7 and will operate every Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. In addition, flights to Pula resume a day later, on June 8, and will run every Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Services to Dubrovnik will be the most frequent with up to five weekly flights starting June 7. They will operate every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The equipment to be used on all the flights is an ATR72.

Croatia Airlines will also resume its Split – Belgrade service, launched last year. The airline will not be increasing its frequencies but has moved the flights forward to May 1. They will operate until the end of the summer season, extending flights from four to six months. The service will go head to head against Jat with flights operating every Monday and Friday with the Bombardier Dash 8.

Scheduled passenger flights between Croatia and Serbia resumed in 2008 for the first time since the breakup of Yugoslavia when Jat Airways launched seasonal flights to Pula. However, the service was not reintroduced the year after due to bureaucratic issues between the two countries. Last year Croatia Airlines launched the Split – Belgrade service, connecting the two cities for the first time since the summer of 1991. Belgrade will be connected to the Croatian coast with up to fifteen weekly flights this summer compared to nine last year.

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Busy summer ahead for Croatia Airlines

Busy summer ahead for Croatia Airlines

Croatia Airlines is anticipating its busiest summer season since it began passenger operations 22 years ago. With a record tourist season and the country’s entry into the European Union expected this coming summer, Croatia Airlines has significantly boosted its frequencies and flight offering. The Croatian carrier will launch services from Pula to Paris, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Erfurt. Furthermore, it will strengthen its position in Dubrovnik where it was the busiest carrier in 2012 with 408.399 passengers carried to and from the city. The airline plans to launch flights from Dubrovnik to Dresden and will boost frequencies to Zurich to a total of five weekly flights. As Croatia becomes the 28th member state of the European Union, the national carrier will significantly boost frequencies to the European capital Brussels. Flights from Zagreb to the Belgian capital will increase from six to eleven times per week. Equipment operating on the service will be a combination of Dash 8s and Airbus A319s. The airline will extend its seasonal flights from Split to Belgrade by two months compared to last summer and has been ordered by the Croatian government to launch flights from Rijeka to Split and Dubrovnik.

Last year, Croatia Airlines’ pilots criticised the management’s decision to cut down on the number of charter flights. However, this summer the airline will also boost its charter flight offering. Croatia Airlines will replace SAS Scandinavian Airlines on charters from Dubrovnik to Evenes in Norway and Skelleftea in Sweden, while it will substitute Adria Airways on the Split – Lulea charter service. Flights from Osijek to Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Split, which the airline was ordered to launch, are still doubtful at this point.

With the busy summer ahead, Croatia Airlines will utilise its entire fleet of thirteen aircraft and could be forced to lease additional jets as has been the case last summer when it leased a Fokker F100 from Tradeair. Croatia Airlines has delayed the arrival of four new Airbus A319s until 2015. Tradeair itself has hinted it will launch its own scheduled flights this summer, adding competition on the home market. Croatia Airlines will also face added competition from various low cost airlines, including Ryanair which will set up a base in Zadar. Furthermore, it will be the first summer the airline will face off against British Airways on flights from Zagreb to London.

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Croatia Airlines to decide on Airbus order

Croatia Airlines says it will have to make a decision on whether to go ahead with a multi million euro order for four Airbus A319s, made in 2008. It has been suggested that the, now controversial, order was made so then Croatian Prime Minister, Ivo Sanader, could secure a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The Croatian carrier has denied such claims, saying the order was a sound business decision at the time. “Croatia Airlines is currently in the process of restructuring and will present its plans to the government soon. A decision whether to go ahead with the aircraft order will be made once a decision on the company’s restructuring process itself is made”, the airline said in a statement. Continue Reading

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Record summer for Croatian airports

Several airports across Croatia have seen one of their best years on record. Over the summer of 2012, the country saw its best tourism results in history, helping boost passenger numbers at airports across the coast, with tourism revenue set to amount to seven billion euros by the end of the year. The airports in Split, Dubrovnik, Pula and Zadar have seen exceptional figures while Zagreb, Osijek and Rijeka have fallen short of expectations so far this year.

Split Airport is anticipating surpassing last year’s passenger record of just over 1.300.000 passengers. July and August 2012 were Split’s busiest months in history with 293.000 and 290.000 passengers handled respectively. During the first Saturday of August, the airport also surpassed its daily record by welcoming 25.291 passengers through its doors. With constant growth being recorded, Dubrovnik is also likely to surpass its 1987 passenger record when it saw 1.460.354 passengers. If so, it is expected to handle more passengers than Ljubljana Airport by the end of the year. Continue Reading

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Ryanair apologises to Rijeka passengers

No frills airline Ryanair has apologised to passengers it left stranded two weeks ago at Rijeka Airport. The incident occurred when Ryanair cancelled its flight from Rijeka to Stockholm due to strong winds en route, only for its jet to depart two hours later without any passengers. Those booked on the flight claim they were not offered alternative transportation and had to pay up to 1.000 euros to find their own way home. Ryanair’s Head of Communications, Stephen McNamara, said, “Ryanair has sincerely apologised to passengers and offered them to switch to the next available flight”. However, the next flight was three days away since Ryanair operates two weekly flights between the Swedish capital and Rijeka.

Some passengers were forced to take a taxi to Trieste, where they caught a train to Treviso and finally went by plane back to Sweden. The Swedish Consumer Agency, Konsumentverket, slammed Ryanair for its conduct. It said the airline was required to offer help with finding passengers alternative transport and provide them with food and accommodation. However, McNamara says the airline did just that, “Passengers who experienced additional accommodation or meal expenses, as a result of this cancelation, should send copies of all receipts to Ryanair for refund. Ryanair also immediately emailed passengers information to allow them to change their flight free of charge via Manage My Booking, or via our reservation agents”. Passengers on the affected flight claim they had no luck reaching the airline.

The PR disaster was another in a line of incidents which have occurred this month at the low cost carrier. They include Spanish and Irish authorities launching investigations into the airline’s fuel policy and Ryanair CEO labelling passengers who forget to print their boarding passes as “idiots”. Last Thursday holidaymakers were left high and dry when a Ryanair flight from Mallorca was diverted to Glasgow Airport, due to flooding at Prestwick Airport. Passengers were abandoned by Ryanair staff and forced to find their own way home. The two airports are 45 kilometres away from each other.

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