Ryanair Scraps Plans For Zadar Lauda Base

Ryanair Group announced this week it has fully “abandoned” its plans to operate a base in the Croatian coastal city of Zadar. Ryanair’s Lauda was meant to station three Airbus A320 aircraft in Zadar this summer, as Simple Flying reported in December. So what is next for Zadar?

Ryanair Lauda Zadar Croatia base A320
This summer, three Lauda Airbus A320 aircraft should have been stationed in Zadar, Croatia. Photo: Getty Images

Ryanair’s Lauda abandons Zadar plans

In its latest full-year report, published this week, Ryanair announced it has “abandoned” the plans to launch a base in the Croatian coastal city of Zadar. Ryanair Group is engaging in aggressive cost cutting in order to prolong its liquidity during the current aviation crisis and to minimize the drop in profits expected this year compared to last year’s major profit.

Ryanair previously had a single aircraft stationed in Zadar on a seasonal basis. However, this base was closed at the end of 2018. In 2019, Ryanair operated all routes to Zadar with aircraft stationed in its other European bases. In fact, Ryanair and Lauda massively increased their presence in the Croatian city of Zadar in 2019, even despite the closure of the base.

The total number of routes Ryanair and Lauda were supposed to have out of Zadar this summer is 31, which is a significant number for this relatively small regional airport. The new destinations planned for summer 2020 were Aarhus, Paris Beauvais, Bremen, Cork, Gdansk, Hamburg, Kaunas, Maastricht, Riga, Liverpool, Toulouse, Vienna, and Wroclaw. Lauda’s three A320 aircraft were also supposed to replace some of Ryanair’s services.

Ryanair, Airbus, Lauda
Lauda aircraft will not be flying to Zadar Airport this year. Photo: Getty Images

Huge blow for Zadar Airport

This news comes as a huge blow for Zadar Airport, which is highly seasonal and heavily reliant on Ryanair Group airlines. Ryanair alone has a total of 19 routes out of Zadar Airport. Meanwhile, Croatia’s flag carrier Croatia Airlines operates only a single international route from Zadar Airport, to Frankfurt. This route is low in frequency (only two weekly flights) and does not run for the whole summer schedule.

During the winter, Zadar Airport does not have a single scheduled international flight. The only flights to Zadar between November and March are Croatia Airlines domestic services to Pula and Zadar. The Croatian government subsidizes these routes with PSO contracts.

Zadar Airport is only the fourth-biggest airport in Croatia. In 2019, Zadar jumped from fifth to fourth place in Croatia thanks to double-digit growth in passenger numbers, driven by Ryanair’s expansion. Had Lauda opened a base in Zadar this summer, the airport would have seen another year of double-digit growth.

Many Ryanair aircraft will remain grounded for the forseeable as only 40% of capacity will be restored. Photo: Getty Images

A blow for Croatia too

Out of more than 30 routes that Ryanair operates to Croatian coastal airports Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik, every single one is seasonal. Only Lauda operates a single year-round flight, from Stuttgart to Split. Therefore, the news of Ryanair’s plans to “abandon” the opening of a Lauda base in Zadar comes as a blow for the whole of Croatia.

Ryanair maintains international services out of five Croatian airports, the same number as the country’s subsidized flag carrier Croatia Airlines. If Ryanair engages in long-term cost-cutting, Zadar Airport has a lot to lose.

How do you think tourist destinations like Zadar in Croatia will deal with capacity cuts by airlines that fly there? Let us know what you think in the comments below.