|Planned Chongqing – Zadar flights unlikely to materialise|
Hainan Airlines, China’s largest privately owned carrier and the country’s fourth largest, has ruled out flights from Chongqing, in China’s south-west, to Zadar, which were initially to be launched on May 1 but were then delayed until September. In a statement to EX-YU Aviation News, a Hainan Airlines spokesperson said the carrier had no knowledge of any future services to Zadar. In April, Zadar Airport’s Managing Director, Irena Ćosić, said that one weekly charter flights, operated each Friday from Chongqing to Zadar, would most likely be introduced in September, after plans to launch the route in May were cancelled. “We are not giving up on our cooperation with the Chinese. We will continue to lobby hard on the Chinese market”, Ms Ćosić said at the time.
Hainan Airlines is concerned that the proposed route would not generate enough interest. The head of the Chinese Southeast Europe Business Association (CSEBA), Mario Rendulić, who initiated talks between Zadar Airport and the Chinese, previously said 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 noted. In recent years, Croatia has seen a surge in travellers from China, with a little over 60.000 visiting last year. Ms Ćosić believes Hainan Airlines could carry some 25.000 passengers during its first year and could eventually introduce scheduled two-weekly flights between the two cities.
Hainan Airlines’ arrival at Zadar Airport would have been a much welcomed addition during the slow winter months when Croatia Airlines is the airport’s sole customer, maintaining flights only to Zagreb and Pula. Furthermore, the airport was hoping to compensate for the loss of several Ryanair routes this summer with this new service. In addition, the bulk of Scandinavian tourists traveling with tour operator Scandjet have been rerouted to Rijeka this summer instead. Despite these setbacks, the airport’s passenger numbers have held up well. During the first five months it registered a 14% increase in passenger numbers. However, in June and July figures slipped slightly. The airport expects to end the year with similar numbers as in 2014. Zadar Airport recently entered talks with Air Serbia over potential flights from Belgrade next summer season.