TRIP REPORT: Croatia Airlines, London Gatwick - Zagreb

TRIP REPORT


Submitted by Jakov Fabinger

OU 495
Departs LGW (S): 16:25
Arrives in ZAG: 19:35
Date: Monday 22 October
Ticket price: £104 (includes return ten days later) - purchased 6 months in
advance via Expedia
Fare: FlyEasy (hand luggage only)
Aircraft: A320 (9A-CTJ, Dubrovnik), 19.5 years old
Load factor: 80% in economy, 42% in business


Croatia Airlines at Gatwick

Croatia Airlines flies seasonally between Split and London Gatwick on Mondays and Fridays, between April and October. But for some reason they always choose to make an exception in the first and the last week of the summer schedule, and use the Gatwick slot for a flight to or from Zagreb instead. Thus, each year, the first Monday and Friday of the summer schedule they fly Zagreb-Gatwick-Split, and the last Monday and Friday of the summer schedule Split-Gatwick-Zagreb.

Just like OU490 and OU491, Croatia's flights to Heathrow, have a dreadful track record of punctuality, OU495 (my flight today) is on average 30 minutes late. Not as bad as the Heathrow flights with a 45 minute average delay, but nevertheless enough to have made me anticipate a late arrival.

Still, I was stunned when I woke up in the morning and looked for my flight online that the expected delay was 3 hours and 7 minutes. One of OU's A319s had broken down in Frankfurt that morning and they were rescheduling all aircraft to cover its flights. My flight was meant to be an A320 but it was switched to an A319 that morning. Not great, as I was quite looking forward to being on OU's A320, which I haven't been on in a while.


Several sources were suggesting there would be a 3 hour delay

Because the aircraft change caused a capacity reduction, there were no longer any Economy seats available on our flight. Conversely, the 8pm Heathrow flight that day was converted from an A319 to an A320, which caused the Gatwick flight to be several times more expensive. Only business class seats were available for sale on the Gatwick flight.


For the first time, the Gatwick flight was more expensive than the Heathrow one.

But a few hours later the situation changed - Croatia was to send the A320 after all, and we would be departing on time.


New estimated departure time was just 5 minutes behind schedule, 4 hours ahead of the flight.

The aircraft arrived to Split from Zagreb on a scheduled flight, and then flew from Split to Gatwick as OU494. Incredibly, it arrived early! The congestion at the time it arrived was weak, and thus it spent almost no time circling above London.

Tracking OU654

Meanwhile, the Heathrow flight was to be on an A319 after all. They turned out to be unlucky - it was their flight that was late in the end (as per usual), landing in Zagreb at 1.30 am having departed Heathrow with a 2.5 hour delay. The Amsterdam flight fared even worse that day, leaving for Amsterdam with a six hour delay and returning into Zagreb six hours and ten minutes late.

I arrived into Gatwick on a regular Thameslink service. A reasonable price for a reasonable service, for a direct journey of an hour, from north London.

The Thameslink train at Gatwick

Gatwick is divided into the North and the South Terminal, with Croatia (and all of Star Alliance, along with many others like Aer Lingus and Norwegian) departing from South. Interestingly, Adria is listed under North.


Gatwick
North Terminal airlines
Croatia check-in desks
South Terminal Departures

We reached the gates via a moving escalator and a lengthy walk. Gatwick is very easy to navigate, especially at this off-peak time. Boarding started on time but there was quite a bit of confusion because the staff were trying to board back first and front second, but everyone kind of just gathered in one large crowd in front of the gate. They also kept referring to the service as operated by "Croatia*n* Airlines", which I thought was a tad annoying. What annoyed me further is that they informed me of my seat changing 7 rows to the back, at the point when I was passing through the gate.

A quick landing
Boarding at gate 28

Boarding took a while. People were walking up and down the aircraft trying to find place in which to put their cabin bags. It wasn't even a full flight but all the cabin storage was full and it did not appear to be policed properly at the gate, as people were entering the aircraft with. Obviously oversized bags, and more than one in several cases. Taxiing took a while too, so we ended up taking off 30 minutes after scheduled push off time.

Destination map

A double-page spread on the Croatian national football team's homecoming earlier this summer

The flight itself was great. The inflight service was fabulous as always, with everyone being given complimentary cheese with olives in olive oil and very tasty oblačići. For drinks I asked for still water and white wine, and a refill of the wine, and I was given it. The legroom was fine. I spent the flight working on my laptop.

Everyone was served food regardless of their ticket type

The sunset produced a gorgeous ambiance

We landed with a slight delay. Impressively positive, given what I was expecting. We exited via an air corridor. Passport control was very quick, with many officials there, and I was out of the airport in just a few minutes. I had no luggage though.


Zagreb Airport, interior


Zagreb Airport, exterior

As usual, I got an Uber and rode off for 110 kuna (£13) to Zagreb city centre. What was really great this time was that the Uber came immediately. Apparently it is now possible for the drivers to just go pick up passengers from Arrivals straight after dropping off someone at Departures.

All in all a very good flight.


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Comments

  1. Fantastic trip report. i didn't know OU's fleet was spread out thin that late in October. I guess it's good for them!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I like the catering provided. Smart

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely, mate.
      Just puts other regional players to shame.
      Brilliant report.

      Delete
    2. 19.5 year old plane.

      Delete
  3. Great report!
    Nice that OU has kept complimentary on board service.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I just wonder about the catering. Undestand that they want to promote croatian oil. However given, that clumsy passengers aleways let things fall, not a good idea to have some oil spilled over seats and carpet....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In that case, water is the only thing that should be served to clumsy passengers?

      Delete
    2. Not even that!

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  5. This was extremely cheap price. No surprise OU has financial problems

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  6. Just to confirm some of those claims, I was on OU flight just yesterday and must say I was pleasantly surprised.
    I took the lowest type fare, 103 eur return Zagreb Brussels with hand luggage only. The outbound was supposed to be on Air Nostrum CRJ1000 but it was upgraded to Croatia's own A320 and the return on Dash. Regardless of the fare there was full service on board. Instead of olives and cheese we got the crackers with Istrian sausage and arancini candied orange peel and unlike the usual airline food this was REALY tasty! All beverages were free. But OU also has BOB - with lots of products in the catalogue, but obviously no one was interested to buy any additional stuff after that. They had Croatian newspapers as well. The legroom on both A320 and Dash was surprisingly decent, so I would say that in terms of on-board product Croatia Airlines is Singapore Air in comparison to Brussels Airlines or Eurowings.

    ReplyDelete

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