Croatia Airlines will commence services to the capitals of Romania and Finland this summer as part of its planned expansion from Zagreb Airport. Bucharest Henri Coanda Airport and the operator of Helsinki Airport, Finavia, confirmed to EX-YU Aviation News that the Croatian carrier will introduce flights this summer season, with tickets to go on sale this week. Croatia Airlines has never operated scheduled flights to the two cities and faces no direct competition on the two routes. The launch of flights to Helsinki will form part of the airline's push to extend its coverage in northern Europe, with plans to commence operations to Stockholm this summer as well. Interestingly, Air Croatia, a failed 2015 start-up, planned to introduce flights from Zagreb to Bucharest, Helsinki and Stockholm, however, the airline went out of business several weeks following its launch. Croatia Airlines has said it plans to unveil all of its new destinations for 2017 this week.
Bucharest has been identified as an unserved destination with great potential from Zagreb since 2007 when over 8.000 people travelled between the two cities. In 2009, the Romanian national carrier TAROM made plans to launch three weekly flights between the two cities using its ATR72 aircraft, however, the service never materialised. Furthermore, Croatia Airlines intended on introducing operations to Bucharest in 2011, but the onset of its restructuring program put an eastbound expansion on hold. The carrier has previously said, "At first, Eastern European countries within the European Union are our priority. At a later stage we intend to fly east outside of EU boundaries”.
Finland will become a new market for Croatia Airlines, where the carrier will attempt to tap into the growing tourism demand. Finnair itself has not ruled out introducing services to Zagreb and has eyed operations to the Croatian capital for some time. The Finnish carrier recently told EX-YU Aviation News, “The Croatian market serves as a great destination for Finnair customers from Northern Europe and Asia. We have also seen increasing numbers of passengers from Croatia using Finnair on their trips. Demand for Croatian destinations has been growing year by year and we have increased our flights to the area consequently”. Currently, Finnair operates services from Helsinki to Dubrovnik, Pula and Split on a seasonal summer basis.