Croatia Airlines will discontinue two routes this winter season in order to boost frequencies and vacate aircraft for more popular destinations. As previously reported, the Croatian carrier will suspend services between Zagreb and Pristina, but will also terminate operations between Dubrovnik and Rome after more than a decade. Flights between the two cities operated twice per week last winter season and originated in Zagreb. They will now be shifted to run via Split. Earlier this year, local authorities in Dubrovnik said low cost airline Vueling would launch flights from the Italian capital. This drew sharp criticism from Croatia Airlines which said, "Croatia Airlines has maintained flights between Dubrovnik and Rome for the past ten years without any support and at its own commercial risk. We plan on doing so in the future as well. If reports are true that the city is in talks with another carrier to operate the same route, we can only say we are surprised and disappointed that we haven't been approached to introduce additional flights". Vueling is yet to schedule the service between Rome and Dubrovnik for this winter season, which begins October 30. Air Canada codeshares on Croatia Airlines' flights between the two cities. On the other hand, Qatar Airways recently placed its codes and flight numbers onto Vueling's Rome - Dubrovnik service.
In a statement, Croatia Airlines said, "These two routes are being suspended in order to leave room for the introduction of additional frequencies and to optimise our winter route network so as to improve our overall product". The company will compensate its Rome suspension by extending its seasonal service from Dubrovnik to Frankfurt into the winter months. Furthermore, the carrier will add one additional weekly frequency between Zagreb and Copenhagen, and two extra rotations from Split to Munich for a total of six weekly flights. The changes come in the lead-up to the 2017 summer season, which should see significant changes in the airline's operations. According to its management, the company will bring in new regional aircraft and open several bases across southeastern Europe.
During the January - August period, Croatia Airlines saw its passenger numbers improve 4% compared to last year, which has been fuelled by the introduction of several new seasonal flights from Zagreb. "This year's passenger record comes as a result of positive trends in our business, as well as the growth of our destination network. In June we launched flights from Zagreb to Lisbon, Milan, Prague and St Petersburg, which we did not serve beforehand", the airline's CEO, Krešimir Kučko, said recently. He added, "By the end of the year, we expect to see our passenger numbers grow 6% to 1.97 million".