Croatia Airlines is in talks with St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport to launch flights from Zagreb to Russia's second largest city this summer. The new service would mark Croatia Airlines' first major leap into Eastern Europe. St Petersburg Airport's press secretary, Margarita Potekhina, told EX-YU Aviation News, "We can confirm that Northern Capital Gateway (NCG), the operator of Pulkovo St. Petersburg Airport, is in contact with Croatia Airlines regarding the potential launch of direct scheduled flights from Zagreb to St. Petersburg. The negotiations for the launch of the new route in the summer of 2016 are currently in its final phase. One of the stages yet to be reached is acquiring the appropriate permissions from the civil aviation authorities from both sides".
Croatia Airlines has not operated scheduled flights to Russia for over a decade, with Aeroflot maintaining services between Moscow and Zagreb. According to Ms Potekhina, "In recent history, scheduled flights to Zagreb have never been operated from Pulkovo, there were only seasonal flights to Pula and Split. In the current market, the route has great potential. Croatia, with its rich history and long coastline, is one of the most in-demand destinations in southeast Europe among St. Petersburg travellers. At the same time, St. Petersburg, being the cultural capital of Russia and one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with its well-developed tourist infrastructure, countless sights and landmarks ,as well as traveller-friendly prices, would attract visitors from all over Croatia and the former Yugoslavia".
In 2011, Croatia Airlines’ then CEO, Srećko Šimunović, outlined plans for the carrier to launch flights to Moscow and St. Petersburg, in order to balance its network, which is primarily focused on western Europe. However, the implementation of the carrier's restructuring program put an east-bound expansion on hold. In addition to St. Petersburg, Croatia Airlines now intends to launch new flights from Zagreb to Milan and Prague this summer and operate a handful of new seasonal flights, including Dubrovnik - Pula, Dubrovnik - Tel Aviv and Pula - Zurich. The airline is negotiating a long-term wet lease of a 100-seat aircraft.