|Alitalia, Korean Air, Montenegro and low cost carriers sizing up Zagreb flights|
Zagreb Airport is aiming to attract new carriers and offer more destinations to travellers in 2016, with LOT Polish Airlines, Czech Airlines and Air Transat all confirmed as new arrivals for next year. However, Alitalia, Korean Air and Montenegro Airlines are eyeing potential services to the Croatian capital as well. The consortium running the airport has delivered good on its January 2014 promise to attract Air Serbia, Czech Airlines, LOT and a Canadian carrier as its new customers. Just prior to its takeover by Etihad Airways, Alitalia confirmed its plans to launch Zagreb flights by 2017. “The Balkans and Eastern Europe play an increasingly important strategic role in the Alitalia Group. Committed to meeting the demands of the ever growing business travel market between Italy and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, Alitalia intends to add new flights to Zagreb". The Italian national carrier operated up to two daily flights to the Croatian capital prior to its financial problems in late 2008. Last year, Etihad Regional cancelled plans to launch a four weekly service from Rome to Zagreb.
Korean Air is considering turning its seasonal summer charters into scheduled year-long flights. The two countries recently concluded a Bilateral Air Service Agreement, which allows for the South Korean national carrier to operate daily flights to the city and offers the potential for more codeshare agreements between airlines operating out of both countries. "By concluding this agreement, the primary assumption is that regular nonstop flights between our two countries will be established”, the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The Croatian Minister for Tourism added, “We are seeking to establish regular flights to Korea to cater to a surging number of Korean tourists visiting Croatia. Korea is the most important market for us in Asia”. A total of 316.566 Korean tourists visited Croatia between January and October, with the figure surpassing the 300.000 mark for the first time this year. The Korean Embassy in Zagreb estimates that over 350.000 Koreans will visit Croatia this year.
Over the past two years, Zagreb Airport has attracted a handful of new carriers including KLM, Brussels Airlines, Swiss International Air Lines, Air Serbia, Flydubai and European Coastal Airlines. Despite plans to launch services to the Croatian capital this year, Montenegro Airlines' CEO, Daliborka Pejović, recently confirmed her airline is considering services to Croatia in 2016. Furthermore, Croatia Airlines itself has said it is looking to expand out of its main hub next year, citing better connectivity with Eastern Europe as it primary short-term goal. In October, Bucharest Airport expressed hope to establish links to Zagreb in the coming period. Late last year, Romania's TAROM ruled out the potential service for the time being.
The French-led consortium running Zagreb Airport has also emphasised its intent to attract more low cost carriers in the coming years. However, one of the region's busiest budget airlines, Wizz Air, says high fees are deterring it from flying to Zagreb. "Croatia is very expensive. If Zagreb Airport becomes more reasonable we will certainly consider that airport as an opportunity for expanding our network but this is not yet the case”, Wizz Air's CEO, Jozsef Varadi, told EX-YU Aviation News earlier this year. The airline suspended operations to Zagreb in 2011. “Nevertheless, we have continued discussions with a number of airports at the same time, so hopefully, at one point, we can go there [Croatia]. I think the market is good”.