Croatia’s Airports Saw A 544% Increase In Passengers In May

International airports in Croatia are having an excellent rebound from last year’s poor figures, with passenger traffic up 544% in May 2021 compared to May 2020. However, the figure still remains well below the 2019 levels.

Croatia Airlines Airbus A320 Dubrovnik
Airports in Croatia, primarily on the coast, had a much better May this year than last. Photo: Getty Images

Passenger traffic grows 544%

Airports in Croatia registered a total of 124,000 passengers in May this year, representing a 544% increase on May 2020, the Croatian Office for National Statistics reported last week.

With such a sudden boom in passenger numbers, the figure for May exceeds the figures for January, February, March, and April combined. May 2021 made up 64.5% of the total passenger traffic in Croatia for the first five months of this year, which was roughly 350,000.

Still, the January-May 2021 figure is 48% lower than the figure for the January-May period in 2020 because the pandemic only really started denting passenger numbers in late February of 2020. Thus, even with the major growth of 544% from May 2020 to May 2021, Croatia’s airports will still be below their 2020 results well into the summer.

Interestingly, the number of aircraft movements rose by 311% at the same time as passenger traffic rose 544%. They stood at 4,618 in May 2021.

Croatia Airlines government aid Dash and Airbus
Croatia Airlines was flying scheduled services throughout the whole pandemic, even during the toughest lockdowns in spring 2020. Photo: Getty Images

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Why such major growth?

Croatia never really closed for tourism in 2021, allowing non-essential travel for arrivals from within the European Union the entire time.

This meant that when other European Union countries started removing quarantine requirements for passengers returning from Croatia, people started traveling for holidays to the Adriatic coast much earlier than they had done last year.

In May 2020, Croatia was still in a full lockdown. Croatia Airlines was flying only one daily rotation from Zagreb to Frankfurt, mostly with Dash 8-400. It wasn’t until the last week of May, 25th May 2020, that Croatia Airlines also added another rotation to the country, from Zagreb to Amsterdam. There were no other international flights at all, not even to the coastal airports, except some one-off Eurowings flights to Cologne from Zagreb.

In contrast, in May 2021, foreign airlines boosted their presence in Croatia significantly, leaving Croatia Airlines trailing. KLM has been flying double-daily to Zagreb from Amsterdam since the winter, for example.

KLM B737
KLM has been flying its Boeing 737s to Zagreb double-daily this May, and it did not fly at all last year because Croatia has remained open this time. Photo: Getty Images

Which airports grew the most?

Split Airport (SPU) achieved the most remarkable growth, recording a 1,550% (yes, one thousand five hundred and fifty) increase. There was no tourism to Split last year at all, so this is unsurprising. This May, Split saw 33,000 passengers.

Dubrovnik Airport (DBV) recorded 342% growth, with 17,000 passengers passing through its doors in the same month.

Other coastal airports in Croatia saw near-infinite growth in passenger numbers, rising from just a handful of passengers in May 2020 to several thousand in May 2021. Pula Airport (PUY) saw 3,000 passengers, Zadar Airport (ZAD) saw 2,600.

Most passengers in May 2021 came to Croatia on flights arriving from Germany, followed by the Netherlands, France, Austria, and Turkey.

This order is unsurprising because these are the countries that host the transfer airlines most popular in Croatia: Lufthansa, KLM, Air France, Austrian Airlines, and Turkish Airlines.

Croatia remains open for tourism for double-vaccinated passengers, which has resulted in reportedly healthy loads so far on brand new United and Delta Air Lines services from New York (JFK/EWR) to Dubrovnik.

Do you think this trend will continue? Let us know what you think of this story in the comments below.

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