Croatia Airlines operated a rescue flight to Mazar-I-Sharif in Afghanistan yesterday. The airline flew one of its Airbus A320 aircraft to bring back Croatian and Montenegrin soldiers from a mission in Afghanistan. Flying out of the region, the aircraft made stops in Podgorica and Zagreb on its way back to Europe. A video of the aircraft’s arrival in Zagreb is below.
The A320 is out of scheduled use
The Airbus aircraft that was sent to Afghanistan is one of two A320s that Croatia Airlines has in its fleet. They are the airline’s highest capacity aircraft.
Ordinarily, Croatia Airlines uses these two A320s on its feeder routes. These fall into two feeder categories, both of which see high passenger demand.
The first of the feeder categories is Croatia Airlines’ regional network with which the airline feeds its hub, Zagreb Airport. These are the Croatian coastal towns of Zagreb and Split, but also sometimes the capital of North Macedonia, Skopje. The A320s are also used on the routes out of Zagreb towards the major European hubs, on which Croatia Airlines itself acts as a feeder for Star Alliance airlines, predominately the Lufthansa Group ones, but also SkyTeam.
The A320s are used daily on routes leaving Zagreb for Paris CDG, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. In the summertime, the A320s operate flights from Zagreb and the coastal Croatian airports to Frankfurt, London Gatwick, London Heathrow and Copenhagen. The aircraft capacity on these routes is filled with help from various code-share partners.
However, with the major slump in demand for travel that the airline industry is currently facing, Croatia Airlines finds its A320 aircraft less economical than the Airbus A319 alternative.
Thus, Croatia Airlines is no longer using its A320s for commercial operations. Instead, one is parked and the other is used only for repatriation flights and other charter requests.
The journey to Mazar-I-Sharif
The flight that brought back Croatian and Montenegrin soldiers from Afghanistan carried the flight number OU2704, and OU2705 on the return journey. The Croatia Airlines aircraft, registration 9A-CTK, departed yesterday morning, 27th March, at 08:36, according to FlightRadar24. The airport in Afghanistan it flew to was Mazar-I-Sharif.
The aircraft landed in Afghanistan at 17:29 local time, following a five and a half hour journey. It departed Afghanistan shortly afterwards, at 19:05, to return to Zagreb at 22:14, over 7 hours later. During its return journey from Mazar-I-Sharif to Zagreb, the aircraft stopped in Podgorica, Montenegro, to drop off Montenegrin soldiers there who served on the same NATO mission as the Croatian contingent.
Upon return to Zagreb, Croatia, the contingent was greeted by the Croatian Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Damir Krstičević, and the Head of Armed Forces of the Croatian Republic Robert Hranj, along with other military personnel.
The aircraft landing, deplaning of soldiers and footage from the aircraft cabin mid-air were posted in a YouTube video by the Croatian Ministry of Defence. The video is displayed above.