|Chongqing - Zadar flights postponed until September|
Hainan Airlines has delayed the launch of its planned charter flights between Chongqing and Zadar, which were to be inaugurated on May 1. Last week, the Chinese carrier expressed a range of concerns over the new service during talks with Zadar Airport’s Managing Director, Irena Ćosić, and the Chinese Southeast Europe Business Association (CSEBA), in Beijing. Hainan Airlines, which is China’s largest privately owned carrier and the country’s fourth largest airline, said it will need at least four months to receive all necessary permits from local and Croatian authorities to operate the service to Zadar. Furthermore, the airline is concerned whether the new route can generate enough interest. Originally, charter flights between Chongqing, in China’s south-west, and Zadar were to launch on May 1 and operate once per week, each Friday, throughout the year.
Zadar Airport’s Managing Director says the planned service has not been cancelled, with flights likely to begin in September instead. “There is no reason to panic. The dates have been somewhat shifted but that does not mean we are giving up on our cooperation with the Chinese. We will continue to lobby hard on the Chinese market”, Ms. Ćosić said. She added that services have been postponed due to China’s slow-paced bureaucratic procedures and noted that future flights would carry some 25.000 passengers. The head of the CSEBA, Mario Rendulić, who initiated talks with the Chinese, believes that Zadar is still relatively unknown and undiscovered by Chinese tourists. “We are still just a dot and we are working on changing that. We still don’t have any brands that could attract Chinese tourists”, Mr. Rendulić said.
In recent years, Croatia has seen an increase in Chinese travellers, with a little over 60.000 visiting last year. From 2009 to 2014, the number of Chinese arrivals to Croatia increased sixfold. Most visit between May and October as part of regional and European tour groups. Hainan Airlines’ arrival at Zadar Airport would be a much welcomed addition during the slow winter months when Croatia Airlines is the airport’s sole customer, maintaining only flights to Zagreb and Pula. Furthermore, the airport was hoping to compensate for the loss of several Ryanair routes this summer with this new service. Despite the delay, Ms. Ćosić believes Hainan Airlines will follow up its charter flights with the introduction of a two weekly scheduled service between Chongqing and Zadar.