Croatia Airlines will sell five of its morning slots at London's Heathrow Airport after reaching a compromise with the government, which was initially against the move. The Croatian carrier will continue flying to one of the world's most congested airports, but will now have only four afternoon slots at its disposal (on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays). The airline confirmed that it has signed an agreement with Delta Air Lines over the sale of its slots, however, it says the transaction is yet to be fully finalised. The deal is valued at 19.5 million dollars with Delta expected to take over its five new slot pairs from April 1, 2017.
Commenting on the deal, Croatia Airlines' CEO, Krešimir Kučko, said, "We are extremely pleased with the outcome and the sale price. We will use the revenue to invest in our fleet, that is to say the overhaul of aircraft engines". Up to seven engines will be serviced from the proceeds of the sale. "In any case, this will strengthen the company", Mr Kučko added. The sale of slots at London's Heathrow Airport was foreseen in the airline's restructuring and consolidation measures. It is unclear how the reduction in frequencies to Heathrow will affect the company's London operations. At first, the airline planned to run daily flights between Zagreb and the British capital, and one weekly service each from Split and Rijeka this summer. As an alternative, Croatia Airlines could also resume operations to Gatwick Airport, which was removed from its network in 2013.
Earlier this week, sources from the Croatian government told local media that the slot sale had been halted and that the airline had backed out from plans to sell its arrival and departure times at Heathrow. It was claimed that in its place, a long-term loan would be taken out in order to boost the carrier's liquidity. Croatia Airlines originally planned to sell all of its slots and suspend operations to Heathrow Airport by the second half of 2017, a move which was strongly criticised by the government, the Croatian National Tourist Board and aviation analysts. However, the carrier argued that the route has been producing losses of up to 37.5 million euros over the past thirteen years. Meanwhile, British Airways will continue to maintain flights between Heathrow and Zagreb, while Monarch Airlines will launch services from Gatwick to the Croatian capital this April.