Carriers from across the United Kingdom have identified strong demand for the Croatian market in 2017 and have responded with a sharp rise in capacity. Monarch Airlines will launch routes out of London Gatwick and Manchester to Zagreb, while Ryanair has also announced a twice weekly service from Glasgow to Zadar next summer. Jet2.com plans new flights from April from across the UK to Dubrovnik and Pula, while Thomas Cook Airlines is offering new routes from May between Manchester and Split. Furthermore, British Airways will commence operations from London to Pula. The head of the Croatian National Tourist Board, Ratomir Ivčić, says, "Up until now we were the ones pursuing airlines, now it's the other way around. We have held talks with British Airways, Norwegian Air Shuttle and several other UK carriers that want to double their number of flights to Croatia, particularly Istria and southern Dalmatia".
The number of visitors from the United Kingdom to Croatia grew 26% in 2016 to three million over-night stays, however, the figure is yet to surpass records set in the late 1980s. This is estimated to be achieved in 2018. "Jet2.com is launching four new routes to Croatia next year and will increase capacity by 100%. All available data shows that early bookings are performing extremely well", Mr Ivančić notes. The growing demand for flights from the UK to Croatia will be on full display in Pula next year, with a record six airlines operating flights from London. "British Airways will be the sixth airline that will connect London and Pula, in addition to easyJet, Norwegian, Thomson Airways, Ryanair and Jet2.com, but the first to link Pula with Europe's busiest airport - London Heathrow”, Pula Airport said in a statement.
The National Tourism Board has criticised Croatia Airlines' plans to discontinue flights between Zagreb and London Heathrow Airport next year, noting that slots at one of the world's most congested airports are extremely valuable. It added that the airline's eventual return to Heathrow would be almost impossible if the sale goes through. On the other hand, the Croatian government noted, "Heathrow is one of Europe's biggest hubs and offers links to the rest of the world. Flights to the airport ensure a significant number of tourists from the United Kingdom". London is Croatia Airlines' only destination in the UK. It previously served Gatwick as well.