flydubai Takes Over Dubai-Zagreb Route From Emirates

Air connectivity between Croatia and the United Arab Emirates is set to be restored in 2021. However, capacity will be considerably lower in 2021 than it was in 2019 because Emirates will hand over the Dubai-Zagreb-Dubai flights to its partner, flydubai. Furthermore, flights will not start until May 2021 and, even then, they will not operate as frequently as they did in May 2019.

flydubai Takes Over Dubai-Zagreb Route From Emirates
flydubai’s 737s will take over from Emirates’ 777s on the Dubai-Zagreb route. Photo: flydubai

flydubai instead of Emirates in Zagreb

According to the two airlines’ search engine data, Emirates will permanently hand over its flight operations between Dubai and Zagreb to flydubai. As a result of this, there will be a considerable reduction in capacity between the United Arab Emirates and Croatia. This is because flydubai will operate Boeing 737 aircraft while Emirates used to send its Boeing 777 aircraft, including the high-capacity variant in the summer months.

Furthermore, on top of the significant reduction in capacity between Zagreb and Dubai, there will be a reduction in weekly frequencies during most months of the year, and flights will not even start until May 2021. The first flight is currently scheduled for Wednesday May 12th.

During May 2021, the route will operate four times weekly, on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. From June until the first week of September, flydubai will operate daily flights on the route. Then, in September 2021, the frequencies will revert back to four weekly and will stay so for the duration of the winter schedule. There is likely to be several additional rotations scheduled around the 2021 Christmas holidays, though flydubai is not yet selling tickets for these dates so the exact flight frequency is still unknown.

Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines will benefit in Zagreb

This reduction in frequency and a downgrade of the route from Emirates to flydubai aircraft is expected to primarily benefit Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines. Turkish, Qatar and Emirates compete for transfer passengers heading to and from Croatia towards the Middle East, Africa, much of Asia, and Australia. Previously, Emirates had the competitive advantage of being the only one to offer a widebody aircraft product, but this advantage has now been lost.

Emirates used to operate flights to Zagreb year-round, but only for one winter season. Photo: Emirates

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Dubai-Zagreb-Dubai used to be a daily Emirates route

Before coronavirus, the Dubai-Zagreb route went through a series of downgrades year after year, ever since flights began in 2017. The rote first started as a daily, year-round Boeing 777 operation, which launched on June 1st, 2017. The route was very successful in the summer months, including in the premium cabins, but weak winter bookings prompted Emirates to cut frequencies across the winter months.

During this first winter of its operations to Croatia, Emirates continuously operated flights to Zagreb, but never more than five times weekly. It was not until June 2018 that Emirates restored daily flights between Zagreb and Dubai. By that point, Emirates had noted that its load factor to Zagreb was strong in the summers but weak in the winters.

flydubai 737-800
flydubai 737-800 aircraft already took over the Zagreb route from Emirates two winters ago. Photo: Getty Images

So, starting in the winter of 2018/2019, Emirates handed over its Dubai-Zagreb route to flydubai between November and March. This was set to be a permanent partnership, and it lasted for the two years prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. Emirates never returned to Zagreb after summer 2019.

Now, with the aviation industry still suffering a considerably lower level of demand than in 2019, Emirates has decided to pull out of Zagreb completely for the foreseeable future too. So will  Zagreb remain a permanent flydubai destination?

Do you think Emirates will ever return to Zagreb? Let us know what you think of this story in the comments below.