Zagreb Airport's new passenger terminal went into commercial use this morning. Following three years of construction and over a decade of planning, passengers flying between Zagreb and Dubrovnik this morning on Croatia Airlines' flight OU660 were the first to use the new 236 million euro facility, which stretches over 65.860 square metres and three levels, features three baggage carousels, eight air bridges - six for international flights and two for domestic services - nine security checkpoints, thirty check-in desks, 23 passport control booths and a car park with the capacity to handle 1.100 vehicles. Over 1.000 construction workers were involved in the project each day. The opening of the new terminal was made possible after the Croatian government concluded a thirty-year concession with a French-led consortium. "We are delighted that our aircraft was the first to depart from the new terminal. We actively participated in all testing phases and we hope that passengers have a comfortable experience travelling from the new facility. Our aircraft will link Zagreb with five Croatian and 24 international destinations this year", Croatia Airlines' Head of Sales and Marketing, Boris Kolka, said. The first flight to land and dock at the new terminal was Qatar Airways from Doha.
To mark the occasion today, Zagreb Airport launched a new web site, while Air Serbia upgraded its equipment from a 66-seat ATR72 turboprop to a wide-body 254-seat Airbus A330-200 aircraft. Commenting on the new facility, the General Manager of Zagreb Airport, Jacques Feron, said, "The new terminal will certainly become another recognisable symbol of Zagreb and Croatia, and will benefit the city's tourist potential, providing it with a modern look. Throughout the region, the new terminal stands out for its contemporary design and modern technology and infrastructure. It is precisely because of this progressive technology that all customers using the terminal - passengers, airlines and vendors - will have the highest quality of service". The new terminal features several different retail brands run by Turkey's BTA Food & Services Group. They include Cakes & Bakes, Spread, Pom juice bar, Cafe Nero, Brewmark pub, Needstop, Antonia coffee bar and From Designers with Love store, which will be selling Croatian products. Furthermore, France's Aelia runs a 600 square metre duty free shop. The airport also features the PrimeClass Lounge for first and business class passengers. It stretches over 323 square metres and has the capacity to accommodate 84 guests. It includes a self-service buffet, Wi-Fi Internet access, business area, TVs and a relax area with massaging chairs. The PrimeClass lounge is a staple of many TAV-operated airports.
Further development of Zagreb Airport is planned as passenger numbers continue to grow. The terminal in its current shape and form has the capacity to handle five million travellers per year. Once this figure is reached, the western side of the departure area will be extended and new gates added. Following this, the eastern departure area will be extended with three new gates once the airport reaches 6.1 million travellers, while further development will involve the extension of the eastern departure area with another two gates and the possible extension of the apron once 7.3 million passengers are welcomed. Local authorities plan to extend the city's tram network to the airport, with work expected to begin in 2019, while a new hotel will be built across from the terminal building and will be directly linked to the facility.
Zagreb Airport development through the years
In the summer of 1943 the German Army started work on a 1.800-meter-long paved runway and a number of taxiways near the village of Pleso. The airport was used exclusively for military purposes. In 1958, the government ordered for the army vacate part of Pleso Airport for commercial traffic. A year later, a new passenger terminal was built. The airport would subsequently expand over the next three decades with a new terminal, apron and taxiways built. For a full history of the development of Zagreb Airport, including photos, click here.
This year has started strongly for Zagreb Airport with Emirates announcing the launch of daily flights from Dubai with its wide-body Boeing 777-200 aircraft, Monarch Airlines plans to launch services from London Gatwick and Manchester and Air Transat will boost its operations from Toronto to the Croatian capital. "Other increases include the doubling of Iberia flights between Zagreb and Madrid, as well as a 70% increase in operations and capacity by Czech Airlines and LOT Polish Airlines from Prague and Warsaw respectively. We are also a proud partner of Croatia Airlines, which holds a 55% passenger share at the airport, and significantly aids the airport's connectivity. During the summer, the carrier will introduce four new routes", Mr Feron said. Zagreb Airport anticipates handling over three million passengers this year.
Zagreb Airport will now focus on attracting new carriers and quickly growing its passenger numbers. "We believe that the opening of the new terminal will broaden our goals. We aim to handle more passengers in the coming period, up to five million and then up to eight million in our next development phase. In order to achieve this, we have to attract new carriers, open new routes and destinations, and make our airport even more competitive", the General Manager noted. The Croatian government is currently negotiating the introduction of flights between Zagreb and the United States for next year.