Croatia Airlines is preparing for the opening of several bases in south-eastern Europe, primarily in the former Yugoslavia. The carrier has previously announced its intention to commence flights from Sarajevo, Pristina, Skopje and Tirana to several European destinations in 2017. "Market research data has shown that there is a potential for the successful opening of additional bases in the south-eastern European region and Croatia Airlines, as a European Union community carrier, has recognised its business interest in this", the airline told EX-YU Aviation News recently. It added, "The prerequisite for this is to purchase four to six new aircraft and extensive preparations are underway. Only after would it be possible to define all the details and possibly open additional bases".
The first of the bases is set to open at the start of the 2017 summer season in April, however, the exact city and the destinations to be served are yet to be announced. Croatia Airlines' CEO, Krešimir Kučko, previously said that the company has calculated its planned regional expansion and decided on its route network. "Everything should be defined by the end of the year and implemented from April 1, 2017", Mr Kučko said. "The pace at which each base will be launched will depend on the arrival of new aircraft", he added. The opening of new bases should ease Croatia Airlines' dependence on its highly seasonal home market. Since it is a European Union-based carrier, the airline will be able to offer flights from points in the former Yugoslavia to EU-member states, as those outside the bloc are often subject to bilateral air agreements. The Croatian carrier is focusing on countries that do not have their own national carriers.
Sarajevo Airport is best suited for Croatia Airlines' future plans. The airport still lacks connections to major European hubs, including London, Paris and Amsterdam. Sarajevo is also one of the few European capital city airports without direct links to Brussels. This could change with the arrival of Wizz Air, however, the carrier's renewed talks with Sarajevo Airport have been ongoing for months. The airport itself was quick to note that negotiations are still at an early stage. Croatia Airlines is currently the sixth largest airline in Sarajevo in terms of capacity. In 2015, it handled 59.497 passengers on its flights between Zagreb and Sarajevo. During the 2016/17 winter season, the carrier plans to maintain thirteen weekly services to the Bosnian capital, the same as last year.
|Busiest airline||Turkish Airlines|
|Busiest route (EU)||Vienna|
Although it lacks a home carrier, Pristina Airport serves as a base to Adria Airways, which operates flights to Germany's two busiest airports - Frankfurt and Munich. However, there is still room for another player. The busiest unserved destinations from the airport include Helsinki, London Heathrow, Oslo and Brussels. Pristina offers attractive incentives for airlines that base aircraft at the airport. As a result, Croatia Airlines would receive a 100% discount on parking fees and a 100% discount on office space at Pristina Airport for a two-year period. Depending on its results, the carrier would also be eligible for a number of other incentives. Croatia Airlines handled 7.126 passengers between Pristina and Zagreb last year. It will suspend flights between the two cities this winter season.
|Busiest route (EU)||Dusseldorf|
Skopje could prove the most challenging future base for Croatia Airlines. Although Macedonia does not have a national carrier, Wizz Air boasts an extensive network from the city, linking it with western, northern and southern Europe. However, the Croatian carrier could position itself as a legacy alternative, offering extras such as free baggage and providing passengers with better options to connect via major European hubs onwards to far-away destinations through its Star Alliance partners. Croatia Airlines handled 46.809 passengers between Skopje and Zagreb last year, making it the eighth busiest airline at Macedonia's largest airport. The carrier attempted to operate seasonal services between Split and Skopje last summer, however, the flights were cancelled.
|Busiest airline||Wizz Air|
|Busiest route (EU)||Vienna|
* 2015 data