|Croatia Airlines CEO accuses Air Serbia of non-transparency and state subsidies|
Croatia Airlines’ CEO, Krešimir Kučko, has accused his competitor, Air Serbia, of non-transparent behaviour, noting that the carrier receives hidden subsidies and government support, which are not in line with European Union regulations. Mr. Kučko criticised the airline in a recent interview to "Jutarnji list", stating that Croatia Airlines is still the region’s leading carrier despite Air Serbia handling more passengers in 2014. “Our results are transparent and easily comparable to others. Results from Air Serbia can’t be analysed because the last available financial report on their webpage is from 2012”, Mr. Kučko says. He adds, “We can only go by on what we know. Therefore, I would say we are still the leading airline in the region”.
In his most strongly worded statements yet directed towards the Serbian carrier, Mr. Kučko said, “We operate under strict European Union regulations, without hidden subsidies and support. We have a range of expenses other airlines, which do not operate under these rules, don’t have. Despite this, our business is stable and our profits are growing”. Asked whether he would like to see Croatia Airlines privatised in a similar manner to that of Jat Airways, later renamed to Air Serbia and part-owned by Etihad Airways, the CEO shortly answered “No”. Commenting on Air Serbia’s double daily service between Belgrade and Zagreb, launched to much opposition from the Croatian carrier in December last year, Mr. Kučko says, “Air Serbia’s route is primarily used by transit passengers to the Middle East and other European destinations. For us, there are not enough passengers on this route and it would be unprofitable”.
According to Air Serbia, the carrier handled 2.3 million passengers in 2014, an increase of 68% compared to the year before. The airline saw its net profit amount to 2.7 million euros, up from a loss of 73 million euros in 2013. The results were audited by Dutch-based KPMG but have not been publicly released. On the other hand, Croatia Airlines saw 1.8 passengers board its aircraft last year, up 1.6% on 2013. Furthermore, the carrier’s net profit amounted to 921.000 euros, which is almost ten times greater than the year before. A preliminary financial report has been published on the airline’s website with a final audited version expected soon.