Croatia Airlines' plans to sell its nine weekly slot pairs at London's Heathrow Airport have been put on indefinite hold after the government prohibited the move following talks with the carrier's CEO, Krešimir Kučko, last week. The Ministry for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure has also requested for the airline's management to draft a detailed report on the company's finances and future plans by December 15. Following an analysis of the results, a final decision will be made concerning the sale of the airline's departure and arrival times at one of the world's most congested airports. Earlier this month, Mr Kučko said Croatia Airlines would likely withdraw from Heathrow by the second half of 2017.
The Ministry for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure reportedly rejected Croatia Airlines' claims that the slot sale was part of the carrier's 2013 restructuring programme. Furthermore, it concluded that the decision to sell was made hastily without proper analysis. Recently, the Ministry noted, "It is important to avoid solutions that would provide only short-term benefits but could pose significant problems for Croatia Airlines in the near future". According to Mr Kučko, the carrier has generated a loss of 37.5 million euros on its Zagreb - Heathrow service over the past thirteen years despite a high average cabin occupancy rate, noting that the airline is unable to compete against British Airways on the route.
Last week, Croatia Airlines issued a statement arguing in favour of the slot sale and rebuffed criticism against its decision. "It is incorrect to say that the slots at Heathrow are extremely valuable and of strategic importance. In current market conditions, the slot sale would end the negative effects the route is generating on Croatia Airlines' entire business. Therefore, it is wrong to label the slot sale as a damaging decision or a national tragedy", the company said. Furthermore, the carrier rejected claims that by selling its five morning and four afternoon slots it would become less appealing to potential strategic partners. "Allegations that Croatia Airlines has no future and should be sold as soon as possible while it is still worth something are untrue and sensationalist. Croatia Airlines has been restructured and is profitable. Furthermore, it is growing through its own means and is securing Croatia's connectivity with other parts of the country and the world in a sustainable manner", the carrier added.