Croatia Airlines has leased back five weekly slots pairs it sold to Delta Air Lines on January 27. The move will allow the Croatian carrier to maintain up to nine weekly flights to one of the world's most congested airports during the summer season, which begins on March 27. The two airlines concluded a Slot Use Agreement, whereby Croatia Airlines will "babysit" the morning departure and arrival times for Delta until October 29, 2017. "It cost us nothing. Zero kunas. Through negotiations with Delta we reached not only the best possible price, but we also regulated the use of Delta's slots this summer season through a special agreement", an unnamed source close to Croatia Airlines' management told the "Nacional" weekly. The Croatian carrier earned 19.5 million dollars from the sale.
Croatia Airlines will maintain services to Heathrow next winter season but will only utilise its four weekly afternoon slot pairs on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. "We are extremely pleased with the agreed price because we managed to get double the amount then we initially expected. It should be noted that the UK government has approved the construction of a third runway at Heathrow and plans have been made to add another 25.000 flights using the two existing runways by 2021. Therefore, the value of the slots will decline and we would never have been able to reach such a deal", a source from the airline said. He added, "The slots were offered to a number of carriers but the best bid was made by Delta. The most valuable departure and arrival times are during the early morning hours before 08.00. Those between 08.00 - 12.00 loose 30% of their value, while those in the afternoon up to 80%. The price was also impacted by the fact that Croatia Airlines does not have daily slots at the same times".
The Croatian government recently extended the term of the carrier's CEO Krešimir Kučko by another six months after which a public call will be issued for the selection of a new management team. According to sources from the airline, Mr Kučko plans to run for the top job once again. The sale of the airline's slots became a contentious issue, which was criticised by some in the Croatian 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 next month.