Croatia Airlines has seen its financial performance and passenger numbers improve during the first quarter of the year, when compared to the same period in 2016. The carrier swung back to profit during the Q1 period, largely due to the sale of its five weekly slot pairs at London's Heathrow Airport to Delta Air Lines. It confirmed that the transaction was factored into the quarterly result. The company recorded a net profit of 1.2 million euros, which is up on last year's 11.5 million euro net loss. Croatia Airlines sold its Heathrow slots for eighteen million euros on January 27. The carrier increased expenditure by 8%, while passenger revenue grew 2% on last year. It spent most on flight operations, in part due to the higher cost of fuel, followed by maintenance, as a result of the overhaul of two aircraft engines, and passenger services. At the end of the first quarter, Croatia Airlines had 931 employees and twelve aircraft.
The national carrier handled 329.320 passengers on board its aircraft during the January - March period, an increase of 4.4%. Of those, 81.973 travellers were carried on domestic flights, down 5.6%, while 243.817 passengers flew on international services, an improvement of 8.1%. The decline in domestic passengers was partly caused by the closure of Pula Airport for most of the quarter due to a runway overhaul. The remaining 3.530 passengers were carried on charter flights, up 9.2% year-on-year. However, charters accounted for only 1% of overall traffic. The airline operated 5.103 flights during the quarter, which is almost unchanged compared to the same period last year (+0.4). The average cabin load factor stood at 64.6%, up 0.8% on 2016. Loads improved on international flights by 1.8% for an average of 64.8%, while on domestic services they were down 1.6% to 63.8%, which the airline says was the result of the Easter holidays falling within the second quarter this year, unlike in 2016.
Croatia Airlines anticipates handling over two million passengers this year, making it its busiest on record. The growth will be fuelled by the introduction of four new routes this summer season from Zagreb, on top of the four new services launched from the Croatian capital last year. "With a total of eight new destinations in the last 365 days, Croatia Airlines has offered the market an additional 100.000 seats, which is why in 2017 we expect further growth in passenger traffic and a record 2.000.000 passengers", the company said in a statement. During the first quarter, the Croatian carrier also concluded a codeshare agreement with Air India. The deal sees Croatia Airlines place its "OU" designator code and flight numbers onto Air India's services from Mumbai to London and from Delhi to Frankfurt, London, Vienna, Rome and Paris. In return, the Indian national carrier has placed its code and flight numbers onto Croatia Airlines' services from Split, Dubrovnik and Zagreb to Frankfurt, London, Vienna, Rome and Paris. Initially the codeshare only applies on flights from Split, Dubrovnik and Zagreb to Frankfurt, London and Vienna, as Rome and Paris are still pending government approval.