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Interview with Slaven Žabo, Director Commercial Division of Croatia Airlines

In a short conversation with Slaven Žabo, Director of Commercial Division of Croatia Airlines, we went through several topics, such as realization of summer schedule, results from January until June this year, domestic traffic and more!

Slaven Žabo, Director Commercial Division of Croatia Airlines

Given the ongoing changes in travel restrictions between countries, we assume that also changed the way of work in company, especially those who works in direct contact with passengers, but also the network and revenue management department? Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the company has been monitoring the epidemiological situation in the world on a daily basis, as well as the conditions for entering certain countries, primarily to ensure uninterrupted travel and reduce the risk of possible inconvenience for passengers, such us refusing entry or transfer through a country. This is a demanding job given that we fly directly to many European countries, and so far there is no unique epidemiological / travel measures in place, existing ones are changing really often.

On the other hand, these restrictive measures significantly affect the load factor on a particular route, and in accordance with them, the flight schedule is continuously optimized. So far this year, we have gradually renewed many routes, which were temporarily suspended due to epidemiological reasons, and on many we have simultaneously increased the number of weekly flights.

What is the booking on international routes? We know that there is almost no advanced booking, as it was before global pandemic.

The dynamics of booking during the coronavirus pandemic changed significantly, especially in European market. In particular, there is a trend of late booking, which is of course a direct consequence of the epidemiological situation in a particular market and travel restrictions in place.

It is evident that just recently a very slight recovery of market demand begun, which is closely related to the normalization of passenger traffic and the return of confidence in air transport, which directly determines the business rhythm of the entire aviation sector and Croatia Airlines.

On beginning of 2021, airlines were forced to reduce flight schedule due to weak demand. The reason is obvious, just a month ago it was still not easy to travel abroad, even between EU member states. What is the percentage of flight schedule realization? Despite all mentioned circumstances, in the period from January 1st to June 30th this year, the percentage of realization of the flight schedule is about 52 percent of the usual number of flights in regular circumstances. In that period, we carried a total of 36 percent less passengers compared to the same period last year.

As mentioned, a slight recovery began in June, when states started to open up for tourists. How many passengers did you carry in the previous month?

In June this year, we carried almost 66,000 passengers on our planes, which is 50 percent more than in the same month last year, and at the same time 71.5 percent less than in June 2019.

Photo: Croatia Airlines

We have entered the peak of summer season, the number of routes and weekly operations has increased, what can you tell us about the summer flight schedule? Croatia Airlines remains a strategically important part of the Croatian transport infrastructure and contributes on a daily basis in maintaining transport connections to the Croatian economy and citizens.

In order to ensure connectivity and strongly support the tourist product of the Republic of Croatia, during the summer season we plan to offer more than 80,000 seats per month on flights from European destinations to Croatia, additionally, in cooperation with many tour operators, more than 200 tourist charter flights are scheduled from Austria, Italy, Ireland, Israel and Scandinavia.

So far, we have almost fully realized our plans to further expand the network of international flights from Zagreb and the company's Adriatic destinations to European capitals. Specifically, in the period from June to September this year, flights from Croatia to 18 European capitals and 19 airports are planned, where passengers, thanks to the cooperation of Croatia Airlines with partners from Star Alliance and other airlines, are offered connecting flights to destinations in the world.

Zagreb is the company's main hub, which routes are available on Croatia Airlines direct flights from Zagreb Airport? From Zagreb, our main hub, regular international flights are planned to 14 European destinations: Amsterdam, Athens, Vienna, Brussels, Dublin, Frankfurt, Copenhagen, London, Munich, Paris, Rome (via Split), Sarajevo, Skopje and Zurich.

Apart from Zagreb, a significant number of routes are also available from Split Airport, which you will be connecting with Prague this summer as well. During the summer season, we plan to directly connect Split Airport with a total of 12 international destinations. Brand new route is between Split and Prague, on which our planes fly from June 27th, on Saturdays, and return airline tickets are available at a promotional price of 139 euros. In addition, from June we offer passengers direct international flights from Split to Frankfurt, Munich, Rome, Vienna, Paris, Zurich, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Copenhagen, London and Lyon.

Croatia Airlines international routes from Split Airport

Dubrovnik and Rijeka, two more cities from which Croatia Airlines operates on international routes. Which one? We have also started to connect Dubrovnik more strongly with European destinations, we have already introduced direct flights from the southernmost Croatian airport to Athens, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, Rome and Zurich.

Also, at the beginning of June, we resumed seasonal flights on the Rijeka - Munich route, which now operates three times a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

We must mention domestic flights. Croatia Airlines connects remote Croatian regions, traffic resumed on all domestic routes? That's right. In addition to expanding the international flight network, as a national airline we continue to provide air connectivity of Croatian cities and regions with our flights in domestic traffic, which includes flights between the airports of Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik, Osijek, Zadar, Pula and Brac. These routes are already in traffic.

More specifically, we will directly connect Split and Zagreb with 3 to 5 direct flights a day during the summer season, and similar flight dynamics are planned for flights between Zagreb and Dubrovnik Airport.

Last night, the European Football Championship ended, for us a bit earlier, but the A319 (9A-CTN) aircraft was available for the national team. Can you tell us a bit more about that project? As the official carrier of the Croatian Football Association, we performed four flights for our A selection before and during the European Championship. The flights were performed by our largest Airbus 319 aircraft with 150 seats. The plane was based at Pula Airport, considering that the national team was located in Rovinj, so, logically, it was the closest airport to them.

In addition to flights for the national team, in cooperation with travel agencies, we performed four ad-hoc (charter) flights to Copenhagen for the match between Croatia and Spain, which transported a total of 600 fans, and some of our citizens arrived for the match with our regular route from Zagreb to Copenhagen.

We assume that the company is already making plans for the winter flight schedule? Of course, we are working intensively on our winter schedule but it should be emphasized that the realization will depend exclusively on demand, which has been dictated by the global pandemic for a long time now. We are monitoring the whole situation and we will go public on time with the planned flight schedule for the coming winter months.

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