Chinese Airlines Are Battling To Launch Flights To Croatia

A Croatian businesswoman, Yu Jiang, who works closely with the Zagreb-based Chinese Southeast European Business Association, has claimed the nation is very close to announcing its first direct connection to China. Speaking at a press conference, Yu claimed no less than six airlines were interested, and that they would “announce the first nonstop flights between our two countries very soon”.

chinese airlines croatia
Could Chinese airlines be landing in Croatia soon? Photo: Boeing

Croatia is keen to establish itself as a top leisure destination for the millions of Chinese tourists exploring the world every year. For many years they’ve been negotiating with China to get a direct, nonstop flight service, and now it seems they could be almost there.

Chinese businesswoman Yu Jiang, whose company is set to takeover Hotel Zagorje in Kumrovec, spoke to Ex Yu Aviation, saying,

“One of the issues for Chinese tourists is that they have to transfer through other airports in order to get to Croatia. We are currently negotiating with several airlines over the introduction of nonstop services from China to Croatia. We have six carriers that are interested, and I believe that we will be able to announce the first nonstop flights between our two countries very soon.”

Who are the six carriers?

Yu noted that six carriers were interested. Looking at the Chinese aviation marketplace, it’s pretty easy to name at least five of them.

Zagreb-based Chinese Southeast European Business Association (CSEBA) has noted the potential of Hainan Airlines in launching flights to the nation, saying they are ‘very interested’.

“We discussed the possibility of Hainan Airlines introducing nonstop flights from China to Croatia, most probably to Zagreb. The launch of this service would boost the number of Chinese tourists to Croatia,” CSEBA said earlier this year.

Hainan Airlines Boeing 787-9
Hainan Airlines are reportedly ‘very interested’ Photo: Wikimedia.

Beijing Capital Airlines reportedly planned to launch flights to Croatia in the summer of 2017, with a license applied for to permit two weekly services using Airbus A330-200s. However, these plans were later cancelled. It could be that the airline is hoping to revive this plan.

Behemoth airline China Southern is keen to establish new routes to reach its goal of 2,000 plus aircraft in its fleet, although it lacks some of the necessary codesharing to make it an attractive choice for onward flights. Air China, on the other hand, is a Star Alliance member and could walk into Eastern Europe with no problem at all and lots of potential in both directions.

Air China
Air China have good codesharing to make the most of the route. Photo: Boeing

China Eastern is another clear contender, and as they are starting flights to Budapest, an onward routing to Zagreb or Dubrovnik could be a clear possibility. Both Air China and Hainan also fly to BUD, so would have an easy route to add Croatia to their schedules.

However, what Croatia really want is nonstop direct flights. Time will tell if they get them.

Why connect China with Croatia?

Over 234,000 Chinese tourists were noted to have visited Croatia last year, and the country is expecting even more this summer. Croatia have been working for the past five years to get a route from China, so could this be the year they realize their ambition?

Croatia’s Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković, said in January that,

“We are attempting to reach an agreement over nonstop flights between Zagreb, Beijing and Shanghai. Croatia has been recognized by Chinese tourists as an interesting new destination in Europe”, 

According to reporting by Ex-Yu Aviation, Croatia are not alone in their bid to secure flights from China to the ex-Yugoslav region. Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and Montenegro are also seeking to boost the number of Chinese tourists visiting their nations. Some have taken steps to abolish visa requirements between the two countries, while others have been working to sign bilateral Air Service Agreements between their nations.