British Airways and Monarch Airlines are hoping to benefit from Croatia Airlines' recent sale of its five of nine weekly slot pairs at London's Heathrow Airport. The carrier has sold all of its morning arrival and departure times, with British and Monarch to target point to point travellers who make up the bulk of Croatia Airlines' passengers on the route. Although low cost Monarch will operate three times per week from Gatwick to Zagreb, British Airways will maintain daily services from Heathrow this summer. On its Zagreb - London service, 43% of Croatia Airlines' passengers travel solely between the two capitals, a further 30% transfer through Zagreb on to London, 14.2% transfer through London to other cities, while the remaining 12.9% transfer through both Zagreb and London to reach their final destination, Sabre data compiled by Routes Online shows.
British Airways also hopes to benefit by capturing a share of passengers who had previously flown Croatia Airlines on the route in order to connect on to other flights through London. The biggest onward flows from Heathrow are across the Atlantic with US cities comprising nine of the ten largest beyond markets on this route. The Croatian carrier will also lose some travellers transferring through Zagreb onto its London service, with the majority of them coming from Sarajevo and Skopje. In a statement, British Airways told EX-YU Aviation News, “We are pleased with the performance of our routes from Croatia to London Heathrow. Our customers on these routes range from passengers travelling point to point to those taking advantage of our extensive international network which serves 199 destinations". Asked whether the carrier is considering additional frequencies on its flights to Zagreb, the airline said, "We constantly review our network to ensure that our routes match our customers’ needs, are economically viable and make a positive financial contribution to our business as a whole". On the other hand, with fewer flights to compete against, Monarch hopes to perform better than its low cost predecessors on the route. Wizz Air previously linked Zagreb with Luton, while easyJet operated between Zagreb and Gatwick from February 2011 until October 2014.
|Passenger split on Croatia Airlines flights to London (click to enlarge)|
Croatia Airlines is yet to update its Heathrow operations for the 2017 summer season. The five morning flights are set to be discontinued from April 1, with the airline to be left with four afternoon departure and arrival times which have to be divided between Zagreb, Split and Rijeka if the airline is too keep links from all three cities to Britain's busiest airports, as was the case last summer season. Services from Split cater almost exclusively for point to point travellers, while the Rijeka flights are divided almost evenly among all categories of passengers. In addition to the remaining Heathrow flights, Croatia Airlines could also resume services to Gatwick to fill the void. The carrier has come under increasing competition on flights between Croatia and the UK, especially with low cost airlines entering the market. The number of seats on offer between the two countries has grown 75.9% since 2010 and Croatia Airlines has seen its share decrease from 22.9% seven years ago to 11.3% in 2016. The airline has argued that its Zagreb - Heathrow service has been producing multi million euro losses for years. The carrier sold its Heathrow slots to Delta Air Lines for 19.5 million dollars. The US airline recently confirmed the news, saying, "Delta has acquired more slots from Croatia Airlines at Heathrow which supports our commitment to the UK market".