Lufthnasa's low cost subsidiary Eurowings will launch nine new routes to Croatia and Montenegro next year, including a year-round service between Stuttgart and Osijek, with more announcements possible in the coming period. Lufthansa has made Eurowings its main focus in the battle with market leaders Ryanair and easyJet for leisure passengers in Europe and a vehicle for consolidation. It is set to become Europe's third largest low cost carrier after deals to lease 33 crewed planes from Air Berlin and to take over Brussels Airlines, which will lift its fleet to 180 planes from 93 by 2018. While the majority of Eurowings' routes to the former Yugoslavia will operate on a seasonal summer basis, services to Osijek will run throughout the year, making it the only carrier to offer international flights to the Croatian city on a year-round basis.
Osijek Airport has hailed Eurowings' decision to introduce flights to the city, noting that the new service will cater for both the Croatian diaspora in Germany, as well as travellers from nearby Serbia and Hungary. Eurowings' Network Development and Airport Relations Manager, Ivan Oreč, said, "We are pleased to commence new flights between Osijek and Stuttgart through which we will connect Slavonia with Germany. Osijek becomes the 130th destination in our network and the seventh in Croatia. It is a very important destination and we are certain we will consider some other routes from Osijek in the near future". The announcement comes just a day after Wizz AIr unveiled its plans to introduce services from Basel to the Croatian city next year.
Other destinations that will be launched by Lufthansa's low cost unit include seasonal services from Munich to Dubrovnik, Zadar and Pula, from Salzburg to Dubrovnik and Split, Vienna to Zadar, Dusseldorf to Pula, as well as between Dusseldorf and Tivat, marking the airline's entry onto the Montenegrin market. Eurowings aims to become profitable in 2017 after start-up losses in 2016. The flurry of new routes have been made possible by the lease of Air Berlin jets, which the Lufthansa subsidiary says it has secured at "competitive" rates. "Our hands are full. We don't have much capacity to handle anything else in 2017", Eurowings' CEO, Karl Ulrich Garnadt, said when asked whether the airline could take on more of Air Berlin.