The world's fourth busiest airline and the largest Asian carrier by fleet size, China Southern Airlines, has commenced talks with Zadar Airport over the possible introduction of flights from its main base in Guangzhou. It marks Zadar Airport's second attempt at establishing services to China following a failed effort in 2014 with Hainan Airlines. The General Manager of Zadar Airport, Irena Ćosić, the Croatian Ambassador to China, Nebojša Koharović, and the Croatian-based Chinese Southeast Europe Business Association (CSEBA), held talks with both Guangzhou Airport and China Southern over the potential service. "The talks went very well and Guangzhou Airport is extremely interested. China Southern has requested for additional technical details. The inability of larger aircraft to land in Zadar has been identified as a problem. However, Guangzhou Airport will contact other carriers if China Southern decides against launching the service due to the short runway in Zadar", the head of CSEBA, Mario Rendulić, said.
China Southern Airlines boasts a fleet of over 500 aircraft, including the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It serves over 190 destinations, but has a limited presence in Europe, where it operates to Frankfurt, London, Moscow, Paris, St Petersburg and Rome. "They really want to establish flights, but we just have to resolve the technical issues, primarily, the ability for Zadar to handle larger aircraft", Mr Rendulić noted. If all goes to plan, services would start during the fall. Following a failed attempt by Hainan Airlines to establish services from Chongqing, in China’s south-west, to Zadar in September 2015, Ms Ćosić noted, “We are not giving up on our cooperation with the Chinese. We will continue to lobby hard on the Chinese market”. Hainan Airlines' Zadar service was expected to carry some 25.000 passengers per year.
The newly appointed Chinese Ambassador to Croatia, Hu Zhaoming, said recently 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 size of 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. Chinese nationals, who usually visit several countries on a single trip, require a visa to enter Croatia, however, it is not valid for travel within the Schengen Zone. Beijing Capital Airlines, a subsidiary of Hainan Airlines, planned to launch services between the Chinese capital and Zagreb this June, however, the flights are unlikely to materialise.