ČSA Czech Airlines has secured local traffic rights between Zagreb and Skopje and revised its planned operations to the two cities for the 2016/17 winter season. As a result, the carrier will maintain flights to the Macedonian capital via Zagreb three times per week and has begun ticket sales on the Zagreb - Skopje sector and vice versa. It will compete directly against Croatia Airlines on the route. Starting October 30, the Czech carrier will operate the service each Wednesday, Friday and Sunday (departing Prague), with its Airbus A319 aircraft. The airline resumed services to both the Croatian and Macedonian capital cities this summer following a four year hiatus, however, both were maintained separately during the high season. Czech Airlines initially planned to operate flights to Skopje only during the summer.
The added competition for Croatia Airlines comes in the lead up to the planned opening of its Skopje base some time in 2017. The Croatian carrier will operate daily flights between Zagreb and the Macedonian capital this winter season, while it will end services between Zagreb and Prague, which were operated on a seasonal summer basis. Croatia Airlines handled 46.809 passengers on its flights between Zagreb and Skopje last year. ČSA has timed its operations so as to cater for transfer passengers connecting onto flights to and from Prague, although the red-eye service is unlikely to appeal to a significant numbers of point to point travellers between Zagreb and Skopje. However, the Skyteam carrier has put up competitive fares on the route.
Czech Airlines began its withdrawal from the former Yugoslavia in 2011 when it terminated its double daily flights to Belgrade. It followed suite with the closure of its six weekly Prague - Skopje service in 2012. Shortly after it relegated its flights to Zagreb and Ljubljana to its regional partner Central Connect Airlines (CCA). However, in the summer of 2012, CCA declared bankruptcy and ceased all operations. Zagreb was ČSA’s first international destination, launched back in 1930, with services operating on and off until 2012. Late last year it announced its return to Zagreb, Skopje and Sarajevo, however, plans to operate services to the Bosnian capital were later dropped.
Flight details for the new Zagreb – Skopje sector can be viewed here.