Restart Failure Leaves Croatia Airlines Operating A Triangle Route

Croatia Airlines has reduced its network capacity just three days after it started resuming routes it had discontinued as a result of COVID-19. On Monday, the Croatian airline launched domestic flights to Split and Dubrovnik from Zagreb. As of yesterday, some of these rotations have been merged into triangle routes. Others have been canceled, just days after they resumed.

Croatia Airlines Dash 8 Zagreb Franjo Tudman Airport
Croatia Airlines aircraft are now flying a triangle route for domestic services. Photo: Croatia Airlines

The triangle route

For the duration of the COVID-19 shutdown, Croatia Airlines has continuously operated a single daily route from Zagreb to Frankfurt. The purpose of the route was to enable Croats stuck abroad to return to the country, thus significantly reducing the need for the Croatian Government to charter special repatriation flights.

This week, on Monday, the Croatian national airline and flag carrier began resuming flights to destinations other than Frankfurt. From its hub in Zagreb Franjo Tuđman Airport, it launched flights to the Croatian cities of Split and Dubrovnik. Croatia Airlines scheduled a morning and an evening rotation flight from Zagreb to both Split and Dubrovnik.

However, this schedule only lasted three days. Last night, the two evening rotations were merged into a single triangle operation. Instead of flying Zagreb-Split and Zagreb-Dubrovnik, a Croatia Airlines Dash 8-400 (registration 9A-CQB) flew Zagreb-Split-Dubrovnik-Zagreb.

Last night’s operation looks set to stay. Croatia Airlines will operate the same triangle route again tomorrow (Friday) in the evening, and the day after (Saturday) in both the morning and the evening. The airline will again operate the triangle route in place of both direct rotations to Split and Dubrovnik on Sunday as well.

Croatia Airlines Split Zagreb Dubrovnik
The Zagreb-Split-Dubrovnik-Zagreb triangle route. Photo: Great Circle Mapper

Not the first triangle operation in Croatia

Croatia Airlines is used to operating triangle routes, especially for domestic services. Prior to the suspension on all but the Frankfurt service as a result of travel restrictions imposed in March, Croatia Airlines also operated Zagreb-Zadar-Pula flights.

These flights ordinarily depart daily and year-round, in the evenings. In the mornings, the aircraft returns back to Zagreb by flying Pula-Zadar-Zagreb. During the summers, there is an additional triangular rotation in the afternoons, operated as Zagreb-Zadar-Pula-Zagreb.

Merging destinations into a single destination is how Croatia Airlines reduces its average costs on these routes, which are typically low in demand, especially in the winter. To sustain these operations, Croatia Airlines receives Public Service Obligation funding from the Croatian Government.

Croatia Airlines Zagreb Airport
Demand for domestic services has been lower than Croatia Airlines had anticipated. Photo: Getty Images

This trimming of the flight schedule just three days after domestic services were resumed is not a good sign. Dubrovnik and Split are ordinarily highly popular destinations for Croatia Airlines, especially in the summer schedule. Normally, the Croatian flag carrier would be flying Airbus family aircraft several times daily to both destinations. Now it cannot fill a Dash 8-400.

Do you think it is too early for airlines to restart operations when travel restrictions are lifted because there is still insufficient demand for travel? Let us know what you think of Croatia Airlines’ backtracking on its service resumption in the comments below.