Beijing Capital Airlines, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hainan Airlines, has cancelled its plans to introduce flights between the Chinese capital and Zagreb this summer. Initially, the carrier applied for clearance from Chinese authorities to operate the route. It was granted a permit to commence a two weekly service to Zagreb this June with its 222-seat Airbus A330-200 jet. The head of the Chinese Southeast European Business Association (CSEBA), Mario Rendulić, said, "The HNA Group (parent company of both Hainan Airlines and Beijing Capital) was in direct contact with Croatia, however, as soon as Serbia abolished visas for Chinese citizens, they gave up on their plans due to complicated visa requirements and other technical procedures, since Croatia is a member of the European Union". Hainan Airlines has confirmed it will introduce services between Beijing and Belgrade, as well as make further investments in the Serbian aviation industry, more of which is expected to be publicised this evening.
It is the second time the HNA Group has given up on its plans to introduce flights to Croatia. It previously held talks with Zadar Airport over possible charter services from Chongqing, in China's south-west. However, the flights never materialised. Furthermore, the airline has, in the past, been linked to a potential equity investment in Croatia Airlines. "Croatia has been working on establishing flights from China to Zadar for three years. Having in mind the actions undertaken by the Serbian government, by establishing flights between Beijing and Belgrade, Hainan will make Serbia its regional centre", Mr Rendulić said, adding that the upcoming flights will benefit the entire region, including both Zagreb and Sarajevo.
The newly appointed Chinese Ambassador to Croatia, Hu Zhaoming, said on Tuesday that Croatia needed to do more to present its tourist potential to Chinese travellers. "It is important to establish direct flights, as well as simplify and speed up the issuance of visas. Last year, 100.000 Chinese tourists visited Croatia, which is almost nothing considering the Chinese travel market, however, it was an improvement of 20% compared to 2015", Mr Hu said. He added that the figure could grow to 150.000 this year. "I would really like for Croatia to approach China in a different way and view it from a different angle", Mr Hu concluded. Hainan Airlines' Senior Vice President, Hou Wei, recently said that the carrier was eyeing markets which have eased travel restrictions for Chinese nationals.