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Croatia Airlines preparing for privatisation

Croatia Airlines is carrying out final preparations for the upcoming tender to sell 49% of the company. The Croatian Minister for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, Siniša Hajdaš Dončić, says that “everything is on course” for tender procedures to begin in a few weeks. The minister outlined that a final evaluation of Croatia Airlines must be completed before the carrier is put up for sale so the airline’s approximate value is known. However, the minister also added, “The price offered by a potential partner will not be paramount, rather, the focus will be on the quality of the strategic partner which could generate more traffic for Croatian airports”.croatia-arilines-1

Mr. Hajdaš Dončić did not mention any potential bidders but said, “Due to the current situation in the European aviation industry we shouldn’t expect any interest from European investors. We are more likely to find them outside of Europe”. Garuda Indonesia, China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines have all been named as potential partners. The Indonesian national carrier is the only one to have publicly voiced their interest to purchase a stake in Croatia Airlines. Recently, Mr. Hajdaš Dončić said, “Garuda is likely to answer the tender call because they are interested in our strong connections to the rest of the European Union”. The statement was echoed by Garuda CEO Emirsyah Satar who said that, “Croatia and Croatia Airlines would be a logical choice for us”.

The Croatian government is also preparing to sell off Osijek Airport. The airport has experienced financial hardship over the past few years and has struggled to attract customers. Recently, the Croatian President, Ivo Josipović, met with representatives from Indonesia’s Global Putra International Group which has expressed interest to purchase Osijek Airport and turn it into a cargo hub. Global Putra, established in 1981, is an integrated transport and logistics provider in Indonesia.

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Dash 8 to remain part of Croatia Airlines fleet

Croatia Airlines says its fleet of six Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft are safe and they will remain an essential part of the carrier’s fleet. It comes after one of its aircraft landed without its nose gear in Zurich on Friday night. “A total of 600 aircraft of this type fly around the world for various renowned airlines and no one has claimed the aircraft is less safe than others or has more mechanical problems”, Zlatko Širac, member of the Managing Board and Chief Operating Officer at Croatia Airlines says. The Croatian carrier is due to pay off the aircraft in 2018.
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On Saturday afternoon another Croatia Airlines Dash 8 aircraft travelling to Rome from Dubrovnik landed in Split after an emergency light indicated problems with one of its engines. After the aircraft was inspected and cleared in Split it continued its journey with all seventy passengers onboard to the Italian capital, with a delay of several hours. Croatia Airlines’ spokesperson, Davor Janušić, says the incident cannot be related to the one which occurred on Friday evening in Switzerland. Croatia Airlines has seen a total of sixteen incidents on the Dash 8 in connection to their landing near, though none have been serious. According to sources within the airline, most landing gear related problems on their Dash 8s included gear blockage though these have usually lasted only a few seconds.

Meanwhile, the crew of Croatia Airlines flight OU464 from Zagreb to Zurich, headed by captain Zvonko Šitum and co-pilot Ivan Ivanković, have received a heroes’ welcome back home for their professionalism and handling of the emergency. Mr. Šitum says the Dash aircraft are safe and passengers have no need to worry, “There have been minor incidents but it happens to every aircraft and airline around the world”. He added that at no point was there panic inside the passenger cabin or on the flight deck during the emergency landing and that crew followed regular procedure in such events.

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Croatia Airlines Dash in nose gear emergency

Croatia Airlines Dash in nose gear emergency

Last night Croatia Airlines saw its most serious safety incident since it launched operations over twenty years ago. A Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 (registered 9A-CQC) landed at Zurich Airport without its nose gear. The flight, which was operating out of Zagreb, experienced problems upon its approach at Zurich Airport after an emergency light indicated unsafe nose gear. The crew aborted their first landing attempt and made a second one some forty minutes later. Onboard crew declared mayday before landing in Zurich without the nose gear. Zurich Airport halted all traffic in preparation for the emergency. Thanks to the hard work of all crew onboard, the Dash 8 landed safely with all sixty passengers onboard disembarking the aircraft without any reports of injury. Air traffic control at Zurich Airport congratulated the crew by noting, “Excellent job, well done”.

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Quickly afterwards, traffic at Switzerland’s busiest airport was resumed. In a statement, Croatia Airlines said, “Croatia Airlines’ crew is well trained a prepared for such incidents and they followed appropriate procedure ensuring the safety of all onboard”. Croatia Airlines introduced its first Dash 8 aircraft in May 2008. The airline operates a total of six aircraft from the Canadian manufacturer, which has a capacity to seat 76 passengers. The aircraft has been praised by the airline’s management several times as it burns less fuel and has lower operational costs.

however, the incident raises questions over the safety of the Bombardier aircraft. Croatia Airlines has seen a string of safety problems with the aircraft with crew publicly speaking out against the type. “The Dash constantly breaks down. Some of the aircraft have micro cracks on the fuselage and corrosion on instillations”, one pilot told the “Večernji list” daily recently. Technicians have also spoken out against the aircraft saying that regular annual maintenance for the type takes up to 25 days while maintenance for the larger Airbus jets take only a week. Exactly a year ago, a Croatia Airlines pilot revealed crew used butter in order to lubricate the forward door on the Dash which refused to close. In May this year, Croatia Airlines crew requested “stress and danger” benefits for all employees working on the Dash 8.

Croatia Airlines has a spotless safety record and has been commended for its safety procedures.

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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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Etihad denies Croatia Airlines interest

Etihad Airways has denied recent claims it is interested in purchasing a stake in Croatia Airlines. It comes after the Croatian government revealed it plans to put the airline on sale before October 15. Speaking to “Arabian Business” an Etihad Airways spokesperson said, “We are not in talks to purchase a stake in Croatia Airlines”. Earlier in month it was also reported that Etihad was in “advanced talks” with Poland’s treasury for a potential equity investment in LOT Polish Airlines. Etihad has neither confirmed nor denied any negotiations. The news comes less than a month after Etihad purchased a 49% stake in Jat Airways.

Zracna Luka Zagreb

While both Garuda Indonesia and China Southern Airlines have been named as potential partners for Croatia Airlines, the Indonesian national carrier has shown the most interest. This week the Minister for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, Siniša Hajdaš Dončić, and the President of the Croatia Airlines Supervisory Board, Siniša Petrović, are due to fly out to Jakarta in order to drum up interest in a deal. “If the strategic partner is from outside the European Union, the maximum stake we’d sell would be 49%. If it is from the EU, the stake can be up to 100%”, Mr. Hajdaš Dončić explained recently.. The Independent Croatian Trade Union has written to the country’s Prime Minister, Zoran Milavonić, to voice its anger at the prospect of privatising Croatia Airlines. They have requested for a referendum to be called on whether Croatia Airlines and several other state owned companies should be sold.

Montenegro Airlines is currently the only national carrier in the former Yugoslavia not searching for a strategic partner. However, it was precisely Montenegro Airlines which caught Etihad Airways’ interest first. When in 2010 the Montenegrin government put 30% of its national carrier up for sale, Etihad Airways purchased the tender documentation, however, did not put in an offer later on. Adria Airways is believed to be in talks with China Southern Airlines while B&H Airlines is also on the lookout for a new partner following Turkish Airlines’ exit last year.

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