Croatia Airlines Keeps Routes Open To Avoid Government Charters

The Croatian Government is making use of Croatia Airlines as a vehicle for commercial repatriation. The national airline of Croatia continues to operate scheduled flights out of its hub in Zagreb Airport, bucking the trend of other regional flag carriers who have canceled all flights. Croatia Airlines continues to fly despite the fact that Croatian residents are not allowed to leave the country, all domestic travel is banned, and foreign citizens are not allowed to enter.

Croatia Airlines reduced network Dash 8-400
Croatia Airlines flies to major European hubs to minimize the need for rescue flights to Croatia. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

A trimmed network

Croatia Airlines operated 10 flights today, all out of its hub in Zagreb Airport. According to its live timetable, they were:

  • Amsterdam (one morning rotation)
  • Frankfurt (one morning and one afternoon rotation)
  • London Heathrow (one evening rotation)
  • Brussels (one evening rotation)

Meanwhile, neighboring Serbia has closed all three airports and Air Serbia is grounded. FlyBosnia and Montenegro Airlines have canceled all flights too, while Slovenia and Kosovo have banned all commercial traffic.

Codeshares connect Croatia to the world

Across today’s 10 flights, Croatia Airlines had numerous codeshare agreements. This increases connectivity, which explains why Croatia Airlines continues to fly despite severe travel restrictions in Europe.

Croatia Airlines’ Amsterdam flights are also marketed by KLM, Air Canada, United Airlines and SAS. From Zagreb to Frankfurt, Croatia Airlines flights are codeshared by TAP Air Portugal, Air India, SAS, United Airlines, and, of course, Lufthansa.

Interestingly, the route to Brussels offers the least onward connectivity, with only Brussels Airlines and TAP Air Portugal codesharing. This route clearly exists for point-to-point demand as a result of Croatia currently presiding over the European Union.

Croatia Airlines Frankfurt flights
The Croatia Airlines route network has been reduced to four destinations today. Photo: Croatia Airlines

Croatia Airlines’ London Heathrow flights offer the most long-haul connectivity, with this flight being codeshared by Asiana Airlines, Air India, Air Canada, United Airlines and Singapore Airlines.

Therefore, Croatia Airlines’ operations to these major European hubs are actually a gateway to Croatia for all those Croatian citizens currently stranded across the world. Even distant destinations like Sydney are just two stops away.

As a result, the Croatian Government does not need to organize nearly as many rescue flights as it would otherwise be pressured to do. Research by Simple Flying found that even in cities that Croatia Airlines does not fly to, the local Croatian Embassy will recommend to Croatian citizens that they make their way to a different airport within the country, from where Zagreb Airport is accessible either directly (with Croatia Airlines) or as a one-stop journey through Frankfurt.

Croatia Airlines fleet
Even this four-route network is being reduced, to Brussels and Frankfurt only. Photo: Croatia Airlines

No commercial viability for this network

Still, given the reportedly very low load factors, even this small network proved unsustainable. Unexpectedly, Croatia Airlines is trimming routes and frequencies further.

There will be only three rotations from Zagreb tomorrow: one to London Heathrow, and two to Frankfurt – one in the morning, one in the afternoon. The day after tomorrow, the entire route network will be reduced to a single rotation to Frankfurt only.

Flights to Brussels will then resume next week on Monday, but flights to Amsterdam and London Heathrow will not operate for another two weeks. This means Frankfurt and Brussels will make up the entire route network of Croatia Airlines.

In line with this reduced connectivity, Croatia Airlines will operate its first set of repatriation flights tomorrow, picking up Croatian citizens from Rome, Madrid, Lisbon and Stockholm. The Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has, however, not made these free for passengers.

How much longer do you think Croatia Airlines will keep flying, and how much longer will Zagreb Airport stay open? Let us know what you think in the comments below.