Zagreb and Belgrade are to be linked with Beijing next year as demand for air travel to and from China continues to grow. In addition, Ljubljana is also seeking flights to the country. Beijing Capital Airlines, which recently received clearance from local regulators to launch services to Zagreb next year has confirmed to EX-YU Aviation News its intent to follow through with its plans. The carrier says that while flights will primarily cater for tourists, tickets will be available to individual travellers as well. The service, which will run twice per week, will launch in June with its 222-seat Airbus A330-200 jet. Beijing Capital Airlines, a subsidiary of Hainan Airlines, flies an all-Airbus fleet of 67 aircraft from its core bases in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenyang, Xi’an and Hangzhou to cities across China and international destinations in Asia, Europe and North America. “BCA obtained IOSA accreditation this May and officially became an IATA member”, Beijing Capital Airlines CEO, Xu Jun, said last week. In 2015, over 203.000 Chinese tourists visited Croatia with 269.000 overnight stays registered. The figures represent a 36% increase in arrivals and 37% in overnights. This year over 300.000 visitors from China are expected to arrive in Croatia.
Flights between Beijing and Belgrade are set to begin next year as well after the Serbian government entered into talks with a yet-to-be named Chinese carrier over the matter last month. The service is expected to be introduced before flights between Beijing and Zagreb are launched. Chinese airlines must first be granted approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China to commence a particular route. Whether any carrier lodged an application during the third quarter of this year to run services to the Serbian capital in 2017 won't be made public until mid-October. The European Travel Commission, which is forecasting a 7.4% increase of Chinese arrival numbers to Europe this year, has identified Serbia as a growing market for Chinese tourists, as they look to travel to more ‘novel’ locations. However, only 14.200 Chinese holiday makers visited the country last year.
Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport is also seeking to establish a direct air link to Beijing. Both the Chinese Embassy in Slovenia and the Slovenian government have begun procedures for the flights to be launched. Ljubljana Airport's Head of Airline Management, Janez Krašnja, recently said that the airport is supporting the Embassy's efforts, noting that intercontinental flights would give it a competitive advantage in the region. He expressed hope that a Chinese carrier could be persuaded to launch the service. In May, the Slovenian Minister for Economic Development and Technology, Zdravko Počivalšek, discussed the possibility of introducing flights between the two capital cities, with Ljubljana likely to be used a stopover en route to another European destination such as Prague. Slovenia welcomed 37.796 Chinese tourists in 2015.