Croatia Airlines will commence its 2017 summer expansion in ten days time with the launch of four new seasonal routes out of its hub in Zagreb. The carrier has recorded strong bookings on its upcoming services to Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki and Bucharest, offering consumers promotional fares to spur demand. As a result, it recently upped frequencies on services to the Norwegian capital, which it has never served in the past, from the initially planned two weekly flights to three per week. The arrival of Croatia Airlines to Norway will result in Oslo offering fifteen weekly services to various Croatian cities, a total of almost 80.000 seats being available during the summer season schedule.
Zagreb has been one of Stockholm's top unserved routes over the past years. Croatia Airlines previously operated two weekly flights to the Swedish capital, which were maintained during the 1990s with a Boeing 737-200 aircraft, but the route was later suspended. ”In general, the interest for Mediterranean countries has increased heavily among Swedish travellers. Zagreb is also a completely new direct route from Stockholm Arlanda Airport and is also one of the top unserved destinations. We welcome Croatian Airlines' expansion at Stockholm, giving Swedes more opportunity to experience Croatia”, Elizabeth Axtelius, Aviation Business Director at Swedavia, the operator of Arlanda Airport, said. However, the Croatian carrier will face some competition on the route with Norwegian Air Shuttle to launch its own seasonal flights between the two cities this June.
According to recent data, over 18.000 passengers travelled between Zagreb and Finland last year, with Helsinki being the most popular destination, capturing 91% of the traffic. "We are glad that for the first time in Croatia Airlines’ history we have established flights between these two countries. The Finnish market has large potential, and that is why we are offering an attractive product with the best connections to southeast Europe", Croatia Airlines' CEO, Krešimir Kučko, said. On the other hand, some 14.000 passengers travelled between Zagreb and Bucharest in 2016, with strong year-on-year growth. The summer expansion will push Croatia Airlines towards handling over two million passengers this year. Based on traffic flow, other European destinations which have been identified by Zagreb Airport as having the potential to sustain direct flights include Basel, Geneva, Kiev, Riga and Sofia. However, any future expansion by Croatia Airlines would require a more permanent solution to its regional fleet, with the carrier concluding short-term wet-leases for two Bombardier CRJ 1000 aircraft in order to support its growing summer network this year.