|Croatia Airlines rules out cooperation with Air Serbia|
Croatia Airlines has ruled out the possibility of launching flights between Zagreb and Belgrade, less than two weeks out from its Serbian counterpart doing so. The Croatian carrier explains that it is currently in the midst of a restructuring program, making it impossible to introduce new destinations to their network under European Union directives until the end of 2015. An exception to this rule, drafted by the European Commission, is the launch of new seasonal summer flights, which operate for a limited time only. Croatia Airlines says it currently has no plans to collaborate with Air Serbia. “At a time of increased competition on our home market, we are certainly considering possibilities and interest to establish appropriate forms of cooperation, but in this particular case we see no clear opportunities to establish any kind of commercial cooperation”, the national carrier says.
Croatia Airlines will maintain seasonal flights from Split to Belgrade next summer season. The service is set to resume on May 2, 2015 and will operate three times per week during peak season. It will compete directly against Air Serbia’s five weekly flights. Late last year, the CEO of Croatia Airlines, Krešimir Kučko, said, “Currently, Etihad’s takeover of Jat Airways has not affected us in the slightest. We only competed against Jat on a few routes. I suppose Air Serbia will aim to carry transfer passengers from the region to Abu Dhabi. However, I don’t expect this will have an impact on us. We have our own plans”. Over the past year, Air Serbia has increased its presence in Croatia with seasonal flights to Split, Dubrovnik and Pula and has this year overtaken the Croatian carrier both as the busiest airline in the former Yugoslavia and the largest in terms of fleet and network size. On the other hand, Croatia Airlines is just coming out of a drawn out restructuring program which has limited its ability to expand and will end the year with a larger profit margin than its Serbian counterpart.
Meanwhile, local media has been awash with reports that Croatian authorities have not issued Air Serbia rights to sell tickets from Zagreb to points beyond Belgrade. The Serbian Prime Minister has also weighed in on the issue, stating that the Croatian government is likely protecting its national airline. However, on November 19, the Croatian Civil Aviation Agency issued Air Serbia a flight notification acceptance, in which it, in line with the ECAA Agreement and Article 15 Paragraph 5 of the Air Traffic Act, grants Air Serbia permits to fly between Belgrade and Zagreb and vice versa from December 12. Air Serbia has assured passengers that tickets bought in Croatia for flights to destinations beyond Belgrade are valid. As EX-YU Aviation News learns, ticket sales for the new double daily service have been going strong with a majority being transfer passengers, rather than point to point travellers.