The CEO of Croatia Airlines, Krešimir Kučko, has said the Etihad-backed Air Serbia has not affected the carrier's operations over the past two and a half years, noting the two compete directly only on seasonal flights between Split and Belgrade. Speaking to the "Tango Six" portal, Mr Kučko added that the Serbian carrier's upcoming flights to New York will have no impact on Croatia Airlines. "So far, Air Serbia has not jeopardized Croatia Airlines' market position in any segment. The seasonal service between Split and Belgrade is the only route on which the two compete against each other. Both Croatia Airlines and Air Serbia connect cities in the region with points in western Europe through their respective hubs", Mr Kučko said.
Air Serbia maintains flights between Belgrade and Zagreb throughout the year, as well as seasonal services to Dubrovnik, Split and Pula. The carrier has also considered introducing flights to Zadar, however, in April, the airport noted that these plans have been put on hold until 2017. On the other hand, Croatia Airlines connects Split with Belgrade during the summer months. The Croatian carrier was the busiest airline in the former Yugoslavia until 2014, when it was overtaken by its Serbian counterpart. Last year, Air Serbia handled 2.55 million passengers to Croatia Airlines' 1.85 million. The Croatian carrier plans to put a greater emphasis on the region with the introduction of bases in Pristina, Sarajevo, Skopje and Tirana next year.
Air Serbia will launch flights to New York in just two and a half weeks. The airline's CEO, Dane Kondić, has previously said that the new transatlantic service will have a knock-on effect on regional operations. "We expect strong interest to come from countries of the former Yugoslavia. This is good for business, because it can strengthen our hub at Nikola Tesla Airport and generate significant revenue", Mr Kondić said. EX-YU Aviation News has learned that the airline's Airbus A330, to be utilised on the New York service, is likely to operate flights to Zagreb on several occasions, possibly as early as the second half of next week.
On the other hand, Mr Kučko believes the New York flights will not affect his airline. "We do not expect a significant impact on our business as a result of the introduction of this service. Croatian citizens, but also those from the wider region, have been able to fly to the United States with a one stop connection through European hubs such as Frankfurt, Vienna, Zurich, London, Amsterdam and so on. Therefore, nothing has changed with the addition of Belgrade as a possible transfer point", Mr Kučko noted. He added, "Moreover, Croatia Airlines offers its passengers options to connect to the United States via other European cities several times a day, while there will be no daily connection via Belgrade. In addition, we are a member of the Star Alliance, offering passengers a unique service and many additional benefits as part of a shared global product". Last year, Mr Kučko said that Croatia Airlines itself could go long haul sometime in the future. "The dream is to one day add long haul flights to our network. That’s a long way off at the moment but it’s good to have something to aim for and we are building our airline to make it possible”, he noted.