Croatia Airlines mulls Airbus cancellation
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.
If Croatia Airlines cancels the order it will be forced to pay penalties to Airbus. It is already doing so for deferring the arrival of the aircraft for several years. The 2008 order for the jets amounts to 135 million euros, resources the airline admits it does not have. Croatia Airlines currently has a thirteen member fleet made up of four A319s, three A320s (which were to be replaced by the ordered aircraft) and six Bombardier Dash 8s. The national carrier often sees a shortage of aircraft during the busy summer months leading it to make short term leases. However, during the winter, the current fleet is sufficient to handle the traffic volume.
Croatian media believe that the upcoming restructuring plan the airline is working on will be vital for its future. It will determine whether the carrier has reached its peak and should stay under Lufthansa’s umbrella as a midsized feeder airline within Star Alliance or whether it should spread its wings and cement its position as the leading airline within the former Yugoslavia. The Croatian carrier still hasn’t ventured into lucrative markets such as Russia and the Middle East and has further room to grow if it decides to take that path.