Iberia In A Massive Croatia Expansion – Again

The tourism boom in Croatia is fertile ground for ambitious airlines, and Spanish flag carrier Iberia is clearly one of them. Just 10 years ago Iberia did not have a single scheduled flight to Croatia. But over the past decade it has engaged in a massive expansion, and this summer it is flying to four Croatian airports: Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Split, and Zadar.

Iberia A321
Iberia A321. Photo: Wikimedia

Iberia more than doubled its seat capacity to Croatia in 2018, and in 2019 increased it again by almost 50%. It did so on its own and through its subsidiaries Vueling and Iberia Express. Together they link these four Croatian airports to Spanish and Italian destinations like Madrid, Barcelona, Rome and Florence.

The year-on-year percentage increases in seat capacity are simply stunning. Iberia benefits greatly from its OneWorld partnerships here. For example, Qatar Airways sells tickets to Dubrovnik by codesharing on Vueling’s Dubrovnik-Rome service. In fact, such was the strength of Iberia’s performance in Croatia that its OneWorld partner American Airlines launched direct flights to Dubrovnik to cater for growing demand.

There was no Iberia in Croatia one decade ago

Iberia first launched scheduled flights to Croatia in 2009, as reported by Ex-Yu Aviation News at the time. That year the carrier operated just two weekly flights between Madrid and Zagreb, and only between July and October.

Now, 10 years later, Iberia flies to Zagreb year-round. In August, it will connect the Croatian capital with its Spanish counterpart 13 times weekly, mostly on an A321.

2009 was also when Iberia launched flights to Dubrovnik. These started as a three-weekly seasonal service, commencing in June of that year and originally operating as a short seasonal route. But just like with Zagreb, within one decade these flights became year-round and far more frequent. They operate as much as 15 times weekly this summer.

Zagreb Airport
Zagreb Airport, where Iberia has been flying for only 10 years. Photo: Jakov Fabinger, Simple Flying

Interestingly, flights to Dubrovnik were always scheduled to connect onto Iberia’s departure wave from North and South America. In fact, two of Iberia’s flights out of Madrid and into Dubrovnik depart within 15 minutes of one another.

From the start, Iberia has been using its Madrid-Dubrovnik route to ferry North and South American tourists into Croatia. Its OneWorld partner American Airlines code-shares on the route to channel its own passengers too. 

As previously reported, the Iberia route was so successful in bringing American tourists into Dubrovnik via Madrid that American Airlines launched its own direct flights to Croatia this summer, linking the two countries for the first time in almost thirty years. The direct flight, which American Airlines is operating out of Philadelphia on a seasonal basis, is code-shared by Iberia. Finnair and British Airways code-share on it too.

Seat capacity just keeps going up

Already last year, Iberia had seriously impressive growth in Croatia. The Spanish airline outlined its plans for 2018 growth to Ex-Yu Aviation News at the time. It had increased seat capacity between Madrid and Dubrovnik by 48%. The Madrid-Zagreb route saw 79% more capacity, and the Madrid-Split an incredible 189%.

The carrier is building on this in 2019 with capacity increases totaling almost 50%. Interestingly, this is predominately driven by capacity growth outside of the peak season.

In particular, the introduction of winter flights to Zagreb and Dubrovnik, and the extension of high-frequency operations beyond the peak summer months of July and August. Instead of operating several daily flights in these two hottest summer months and only several weekly flights for the rest of the summer season, there is now less of an imbalance between July/August and the months preceding and succeeding them.

Iberia Express is now in Croatia too

Iberia Express
Iberia also launched flights to the Croatian city of Zadar through Iberia Express this month. Photo: Wikimedia

Iberia’s 2019 Croatia expansion culminated two weeks ago when its subsidiary Iberia Express operated its first ever flight to Zadar, from Madrid. Iberia is already present at this coastal Croatian airport through Vueling, which flies there from Barcelona and Rome. Iberia code-shares on these routes.

Madrid-Zadar operates twice a week on a seasonal basis this year. If Iberia’s past expansion patterns in Croatia are anything to go by, Iberia Express will be significantly increasing its presence in Zadar next year.