|Air Serbia becomes the former Yugoslavia’s busiest airline|
Air Serbia has dethroned Croatia Airlines to become the busiest carrier in the former Yugoslavia in the first quarter. In the first three months of the year, Air Serbia handled 368.389 passengers, an increase of 66.3% compared to the same period last year. On the other hand, Croatia Airlines welcomed 292.524 travellers on board its aircraft, a decrease of 6.5% on 2013. It is the first time in over a decade that Serbia’s national carrier has managed to outperform its Croatian rival. During the first three months, Air Serbia’s average cabin load factor stood at 58% (down six points) while Croatia Airlines did better with an average cabin occupancy rate of 60% (same as last year).
Croatia Airlines blames its performance so far in 2014 on its restructuring program which has seen the carrier cut 3% of its flights compared to last year. The airline also notes the ongoing recession in the country, high seasonality of the Croatian travel market and increased competition for its quarterly results. The Croatian carrier recorded 83.077 passenger on domestic flights (down 7%) while it handled 203.286 travellers on scheduled international services (down 8%) and a further 6.161 on international charter flights (up 117%). Croatia Airlines recorded healthier loads on its flights to Germany (+2.4%), the Netherlands (+3.9%), Austria (+3), Belgium (+43.9) and Macedonia (+1.4%) compared to last year. On the other hand, flights to Bosnia and Herzegovina (-0.7%), France (-24.9%), Italy (-16.1%), Switzerland (-10%) and the United Kingdom (-19.8%) all saw numbers contract.
Despite temporarily losing its status as the number one carrier in the former Yugoslavia, Croatia Airlines managed to decrease its losses in the first quarter. The airline recorded a net loss of 10.7 million euros compared to last year’s loss of 12.2 million euros. The airline spent most on flight operations, followed by maintenance and passenger services. The number of employees also decreased at the Croatian carrier from 1.041 last year to 973 by the end of March. With a busy summer season ahead, it remains to be seen whether Croatia Airlines can claw back passengers and retain its title as the busiest carrier in the EX-YU region by the end of the year.