How Croatia Airlines Responded To Ryanair’s Arrival In Zagreb

Ryanair’s arrival in Zagreb Airport has so far provoked a limited response by the national airline that is based there, Croatia Airlines. The airline issued a strongly-worded public letter of concern to Zagreb Airport, but the airport has, so far, not caved into Croatia Airlines’ demands.

Croatia Airlines Airbus Dash
Croatia Airlines has so far not responded to Ryanair’s arrival. Photo: Getty Images

Ryanair is launching 24 routes in Zagreb this year

Last month, on Friday 23rd July, Ryanair opened a new base in Zagreb Airport (ZAG), launching flights to Gothenburg (GOT), Rome Ciampino (CIA), and London Stansted (STN) via its subsidiary airline, Lauda Europe.

These three new routes came in addition to two routes that Ryanair launched in June this year: Milan Bergamo (BGY) and Brussels Charleroi (CRL). On 2nd August, Ryanair also launched Zagreb – Sofia (SOF) flights, and Simple Flying was on the inaugural flight.

One Lauda Airbus A320 is already based in Zagreb. A second A320 will arrive in September, in time for Ryanair to launch a further nine routes out of Zagreb. Then, a third Airbus A320 is coming in December in time for Ryanair to launch nine more new routes.

Ryanair Lauda
Ryanair will have more routes out of Zagreb this winter than Croatia Airlines will. Photo: Getty Images

Croatia Airlines is not happy

Croatia Airlines did not immediately respond to Ryanair’s arrival in Zagreb. Only several days after the news broke, Croatia Airlines issued a written reaction seen by Simple Flying.

In this reaction, the Croatian flag carrier asked Zagreb Airport to “harmonize” the conditions that it provides to Croatia Airlines with the conditions that it will provide to Ryanair. Croatia Airlines said it expects to be given more favorable terms on the basis that it is the largest user of the airport’s services: it accounts for over 50% of Zagreb’s traffic.

Croatia Airlines was then backed publicly by the Croatian government on several occasions, with ministers calling the airline a strategic asset linked to tourism, which accounts for a higher share of GDP in Croatia than it does for any other European Union member state.

However, despite several rounds of talks between Zagreb Airport and Croatia Airlines, as far as it is publicly known, Zagreb Airport has not reduced its fees for Croatia Airlines.

It remains unclear why Croatia Airlines is choosing this line of attack because Zagreb Airport is not actually providing any special discounts for Ryanair that Croatia Airlines itself is not eligible for.

Ryanair, Kiwi.com, Airline Tickets
Ryanair’s business model has caused many flag carriers to adapt for survival. Photo: Getty Images

Regional Marketing Director, EMEA

What could Croatia Airlines have done?

As far as it is publicly known, Zagreb Airport is not providing Ryanair with any special discounts or individually negotiated terms.

Ryanair is launching 24 new routes out of Zagreb Airport and basing three A320 aircraft there on the basis of a public tender that links financial discounts to new routes.

As such, Croatia Airlines indeed receives the same financial conditions in Zagreb as Ryanair, because both airlines are eligible to launch new routes and be offered discounts by Zagreb Airport for them.

Croatia Airlines could have used Zagreb Airport’s public tender to launch a flurry of new routes, trying out markets that it never served before and returning to markets that it has not served in a while. It could have built a regional hub system, launching new routes to multiple regional airports with its Dash 8 turboprop aircraft fleet to feed its Western European network.

It will be interesting to see if Croatia Airlines eventually does anything concrete to respond to Ryanair’s arrival in Zagreb. One thing is certain – time is running out.

What do you think Croatia Airlines should do?

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