Croatia Airlines has confirmed it still plans to open regional bases across south-eastern Europe and acquire 100-seat aircraft for next year. It comes after the carrier made no mention of the plans at a news conference last week during which it revealed it is considering introducing several new routes out of Zagreb in 2017, including Moscow, Dublin, Oslo and Stockholm. In a statement to EX-YU Aviation News, Croatia Airlines said, "The company is still working on a plan that includes setting up bases in some south-east European cities and still has plans for acquiring regional jets". Croatia Airlines' CEO, Krešimir Kučko, previously noted 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 Croatian carrier has previously unveiled Sarajevo, Skopje, Pristina and Tirana as its planned new bases from which it would maintain flights to several European cities. However, these are not set to open all at once. "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. 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". Croatia Airlines handled 59.497 passengers on its flights between Zagreb and Sarajevo in 2015, 46.809 travellers between the Croatian capital and Skopje, and 7.126 passengers to and from Pristina. The carrier suspended operations to Kosovo's main airport this winter but will operate several charters from the city and resume scheduled operations next summer. On the other hand, the airline does not serve Tirana.
Croatia Airlines initially planned to introduce new 100-seat jets this year, however, this did not materialise. Instead, it wetleased an ageing Fokker 100 aircraft from Trade Air. Last week, the carrier defended the move, stating, "Due to technical reasons and a change in government in Croatia, it was impossible to follow through with the operational lease of a 100-seat aircraft and the company instead wetleased a Fokker 100". This winter season, the airline looked into the possibility of leasing an Adria Airways Bombardier CRJ900. Croatia Airlines intends to bridge the gap in capacity between its Dash 8 turboprops and larger Airbus jets with the lease.