Beijing Capital Airlines, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hainan Airlines, has announced plans to launch services from the Chinese capital to Zagreb next year. Flights will be inaugurated in June 2017 and will operate twice per week with its 222-seat Airbus A330-200 jet. On Monday, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) granted Beijing Capital Airlines a permit to operate services to the Croatian capital. It has not been specified whether the flights will run on a seasonal or year-long basis. Capital Airlines currently offers scheduled flights across China, as well as to Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Spain, the Maldives and Vietnam. It boasts a fleet of 57 aircraft, all of which are leased from its parent company Hainan Airlines. Next year, the carrier will expand into Europe with services to Helsinki, in addition to Zagreb.
Hainan Airlines, which is China's largest privately-owned carrier, has previously expressed interest in operating flights to Croatia. Last year, it held talks with Zadar Airport over possible charter services from Chongqing, in China's south-west. However, the flights never materialised. Furthermore, the airline has, in the past, been linked to a potential equity investment in Croatia Airlines. Zagreb is currently the only airport in the former Yugoslavia to be served by a carrier from the far East with Korean Airlines maintaining summer charters from Seoul. This year, the airline is operating a total of twelve flights with its Airbus A330 aircraft.
In 2015, over 203.000 Chinese tourists visited Croatia with 269.000 overnight stays registered. The figures represent a 36% increase in arrivals and 37% in overnights. This year over 300.000 visitors from China are expected to arrive in Croatia. The two countries signed an Air Service Agreement in June 2009, paving the way for flights between the two countries. Last year, the Croatian Tourism Ministry said, "China offers a big tourist potential and Croatia wants to attract as many visitors as possible from that market. We are willing to support Chinese tour operators who, when there is a critical mass of Chinese tourists, will connect China and Croatia witdirect flights".