Croatia Airlines turns 20

20 years in the sky
Yesterday Croatia Airlines celebrated 20 years since it operated its first flight. The Croatian national carrier, which had been renamed from Zegal Zagreb Airlines, operated its first service on May 5 between Zagreb and Split with a leased Adria Airways MD-83. It took a year before the airline established international flights to Frankfurt in Germany, which remains its largest international market. The airline acquired 3 of Lufthansa’s Boeing 737-200s. The Croatian carrier has continually renewed its fleet over the last 2 decades, purchasing regional ATR42s and later introducing Airbus A319 and A320 models with its newest additions being the Bombardier Dash 8 jets.

The airline has done a lot in its 20 years. It created a notable domestic network and carried more than 20.500.000 passengers, becoming the leading EX-YU national carrier in terms of passenger numbers. It has also become a full member of Star Alliance and will operate its first flight to neighbouring Serbia on June 20, putting the past behind and looking to the future. If all goes to plan, the first of 4 ordered Airbus A319s should start arriving next year.

Some notable milestones for the airline include it becoming the first airline to operate into post war Sarajevo, it flew the late Pope John Paul II on his visit to Croatia and has carried over 1 million passengers annually since 2000.

However, the airline faces a challenging future with a planned strike, a 15 million Euro loss recorded in 2010 and increased competition from low cost airlines.


  1. Anonymous11:01


    I have enjoyed flying OU many times so far. Their A/C cabins were clean and pleasant and the crews almost always polite. They often offered good duty free goods, food and drinks, even a range of (Croatian) papers and, not to forget, nice magazine as well as IFE.

    I am sorry they have constant losses and their employees are not satisfied.

    Good luck to all of them!

  2. Anonymous11:55

    Congratulations! Great company with great service and each year lower prices for international flights!

  3. Intruder12:33

    Good luck Croatia Airlines,
    wish it might be successful in the sky and financially soon.
    I have never flown by CA as I live in Italy and mostly I fly
    to Asia-Pacific over Frankfurt and Munich.

  4. Anonymous12:44

    First Croatian Airlines B737 was -100 series taken from LH not -200.

  5. frequentflyer13:17

    Well done to OU. An airline I continue to enjoy flying both domestically and internationally over many years.

    The product offered to passengers rates just as well as many of the big players in the European aviation market, and slowly the airline is forging more *A links than just with LH. The building up of frequencies on major routes and filling the gaping holes in the network (BER, BEG, DXB, MLA, MXP, WAW) while still remaining profitable becomes the next challenge.

    I wonder what the next 20 years will hold - will the airline continue to grow, increase its fleet or open up different strategies and synergies? Or will we see the airline collapse and replaced by another? Could the Croatian travelling public start to fly (remembering cracking the bus mafia is a tough job!), or alternatively a rival to OU (LCC or otherwise) appear?

    My prediction is a slight increase in fleet and an opening up of markets between the Adriatic and numerous cities in the exYU.

    Congratulations to the airline, but they only remain the best in the region due to the myriad of problems faced by their competitors...

  6. Anonymous14:09

    Happy birthday OU!!! Congratulations from Belgrade!

  7. I was always proud of this airline and while growing up, always wanted to be a part of it somehow.
    It does look though as if they have lost some focus over the past few years and seem to be rattled by the introduction of LCC, almost as if they thought they would be forever safe under the Lufthansa and star umbrella.

    How they react to what will be ever increasing competition will really test the character of this airline. It is possible to be fair to the employees of OU and still profitable; just some sound management is required.

    What we have not seen from OU yet is proper advertising, especially in Croatia where many just assume that flying is too expensive but in fact can be cheaper than taking the bus, even with Croatia Airlines.

    Looking forward to see what the next 20 will bring,

    Happy Birthday Croatia Airlines!

  8. Anonymous20:01

    20 Million passengers for 20 years is well done job. I will like to know what is JAT results from 1991 to 2011 or (1990-2010). I know we had sanctions but I am intersting to know how many passengers went true JAT for the last 20 years. Approximately 12-13 mil. What is your guess???

  9. Anonymous21:17

    Congratulations Croatia Airlines we love you!


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