Croatia Airlines will resume domestic flights on Monday, 11th May, the Croatian Minister for Sea, Transport, and Infrastructure revealed to state broadcaster HRT on Friday. With Monday being the day that internal travel restrictions in Croatia will be lifted, where will Croatia Airlines fly?
Split and Dubrovnik will be first
The domestic routes that Croatia Airlines will launch first are, unsurprisingly, the destinations that it serves most frequently: the coastal cities of Split and Dubrovnik. Both will be served twice daily- once in the morning and once in the evening.
The choice of these two destinations is unsurprising: Split is the second most populous city in Croatia after Zagreb, and Dubrovnik is the city farthest removed from Zagreb. In fact, Dubrovnik is cut off from the rest of Croatia, and can only be reached by land through a border crossing with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Still, although Croatia Airlines will fly to Split and Dubrovnik twice daily, the capacity on the route is still significantly lower than normal. All flights will be operated by a Dash 8-400 aircraft, whereas they would typically be operated by Croatia Airlines’s Airbus A319 and A320 jets too.
The two-daily flights are a frequency downgrade too. On this day last year, 26th April 2019, Split Airport handled five Croatia Airlines flights arriving from Zagreb while Dubrovnik Airport had three arrivals from Zagreb.
With such relatively high frequencies, Split and Dubrovnik are integral parts of Croatia Airlines’ route network. The airline handles much point-to-point traffic on the routes, but it also sees much transfer traffic too.
The resumption is a logical step forward for Croatia Airlines: Split and Dubrovnik will both receive repatriation traffic within the country but also arriving from the whole world through Croatia Airlines’ daily flight to Frankfurt. The Croatian airline has continued its Zagreb-Frankfurt flights to minimize the need for chartered repatriation flights.
At the same time, the resumption of these domestic services will be a vital cargo link for the country. The early-morning and late-evening daily scheduling will also allow for day trips, for business and political purposes, once restrictions in Croatia are lifted on 11th May.
A difficult year ahead
Still, Croatia Airlines will see a significant reduction in demand for both its Zagreb-Split and Zagreb-Dubrovnik operations.
Transfer passenger flow is likely to be non-existent at this point in time. This is because the entire Croatia Airlines international route network, onto which Dubrovnik and Split flights would usually connect, is suspended. The only exception is Frankfurt, but this route is only served once daily.
Even if Croatia Airlines resumes its international services to major European hubs like Paris, Amsterdam, London, Zurich and Barcelona, transfer demand will still be low because Europeans are expected to travel far less this year. Tourism will suffer both because of health fears and because of the fall in incomes caused by the economic downturn.
Still, both Zagreb-Dubrovnik and Zagreb-Split flights are Public Service Obligation routes for Croatia Airlines. Thus, the Croatian airline will not be too concerned about the drop in demand on these domestic services. Furthermore, Croatia Airlines is a continuous recipient of government aid, and it expects to receive further support from the Croatian government as a result of its current COVID-19 issues.
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