Croatia Airlines has confirmed it has entered negotiations with a number of plane manufacturers over the purchase of new 100-seat aircraft. The airline plans to expand its fleet next year, as well as add an additional four Airbus A320neo jets in 2021. In a statement to EX-YU Aviation News, the carrier said, "Croatia Airlines is intensively considering all options for redesigning its fleet, primarily regarding the introduction of 100-seat aircraft, which will enable the company to bridge the capacity difference of the currently used Airbus A319/320 and Dash 8 – Q400 aircraft". It added, "Accordingly, the company's Management Board has initiated negotiations with all global producers of 100-seat aircraft, including the Canadian company Bombardier Aerospace, the producer of six Dash 8- Q400 aircraft, which are already a part of Croatia Airlines' fleet".
Earlier this month the carrier's CEO, Krešmir Kučko, said two jets would join the airline's fleet in 2017. Bombardier is believed to be the front-runner and the aircraft could potentially replace the aging A319s in the future. Initially, it was planned for two aircraft to be introduced this year, however, the airline ultimately arranged for a wet-lease of a Trade Air Fokker 100 until late October. In 2018 Croatia Airlines will also have to decide whether it will extend a financial lease agreement of its six Dash 8 turboprops or opt for another aircraft type altogether. The Japanese-produced Mitsubishi Regional Jet, which has the capacity to seat between seventy and ninety passengers, is seen as a possible alternative for the Dash 8s, with the plane manufacturer itself confirming that Croatia Airlines is one of its core customer targets in Europe.
The average age of Croatia Airlines' twelve-member fleet amounts to 11.7 years. Five of the aircraft are owned by the carrier itself (four A319s and one A320), while the rest are on lease. The airline's CEO previously said the company's fleet expansion will not be influenced by its ongoing privatisation process. "It is part our medium-term strategy and its realization does not depend on a strategic partner. However, it will impact on the pace of the acquisitions. Our aim is to renew our fleet as soon as possible. We have given this serious consideration", Mr Kučko said.