|Croatia Airlines plans eastward expansion in 2016|
The CEO of Croatia Airlines, Krešimir Kučko, says his carrier will put a greater emphasis on the Eastern European market following the completion of its restructuring program at the end 2015, which has limited its opportunities for network growth over the past four years. Mr. Kučko says, “The most significant gap is to the East and we see our opportunity right there. At first, Eastern European countries within the European Union are our priority. At a later stage we intend to fly East outside of EU boundaries”. He adds, “Our dependence on leisure traffic is higher than in other European countries. The major problem for Croatia Airlines is seasonal demand and this seasonality represents the main issue to be resolved in future network development”.
In 2011, Croatia Airlines’ then CEO, Srećko Šimunović, outlined plans for the carrier to launch flights to Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sofia, in order to balance its network which is primarily focused on Western Europe. However, the implementation of the restructuring program put an East-bound expansion on hold. The airline’s restructuring measures, which are in line with the EU’s competition, restructuring and state aid rules, have covered a wide range of areas including strategic, operative and financial planning. Despite these, the airline’s CEO also includes Zagreb Airport as one of the limiting factors for the carrier’s growth. “The infrastructure at Zagreb Airport is inadequate and is a limiting factor in traffic planning. The size and passenger flow is not in line with traffic demand and passenger volume. This is particularly evident at peak hours when the number of passengers is much greater than the terminal’s capacity. However, a new terminal is under construction and will almost double in capacity”, Mr Kučko says.
According to its CEO, the airline’s ultimate goal is to expand across the Atlantic. “We should not forget the significant demand for flights between North America and Croatia and we are keeping an eye on this market as well. But to achieve this goal we will first have to significantly develop our regional network”. In line with previous comments made, Mr. Kučko outlined the carrier’s plans to expand its fleet. “We are analysing the effect of having a 100-seat aircraft in our fleet. Such an aircraft would help us operate with greater cost efficiency during the winter months and open up new markets during the summer. We are now developing various models, with a different number of units for our future plans”, the CEO says. He concludes, “From these various models we will eventually choose the most sustainable, efficient and profitable one”.