Ryanair To Open Zagreb Base Early Amid Croatia Airlines Competition

Ryanair will open its Zagreb Airport base more than a month earlier than planned this summer, in July, much to the disapproval of Croatia Airlines. Ryanair has also announced two new routes to Zagreb, and it is appealing against the state aid provided to Croatia Airlines last year.

Ryanair is intensifying its expansion in Croatia as it aims to overtake Croatia Airlines in seat capacity by next year. Photo: Getty Images

Ryanair will come to Zagreb Airport sooner than planned

Ryanair has brought forward the opening of its new Lauda base in Zagreb Airport, just over a month after it was first announced. Instead of 1st September, the base will now open on 23rd July.

At the same time, Ryanair has announced two new routes to Zagreb: Malmö in Sweden and Weeze Airport near Düsseldorf in Germany. The total number of Ryanair’s new routes to Zagreb now stands at 14.

As we reported last month, Croatia Airlines is highly unhappy with Ryanair’s arrival in its base airport. The national airline of Croatia is arguing that Ryanair has been offered unfair financial terms by Zagreb Airport at Croatia Airlines’ expense.

Ryanair has responded robustly to Croatia Airlines’ PR campaign by launching an appeal to the Court of Justice of the European Union against the state aid that the Government of Croatia provided to Croatia Airlines. Croatia Airlines received a cash injection in 2020 for COVID-19 reasons, but also in 2019 to cover its operational losses.

Croatia Airlines government aid Dash and Airbus
Ryanair is appealing the Croatian Government’s decision to provide state aid to Croatia Airlines. Photo: Getty Images

So which routes is Ryanair launching?

Ryanair is launching 14 new routes out of Zagreb, though it has indicated that it plans to operate as many as 40 by the end of 2022, and that it wants to overtake Croatia Airlines as the busiest airline in Zagreb and all of Croatia.

The new routes are, in the order of launch date:

  • Brussels Charleroi, 2nd June
  • Milan Bergamo, 17th June
  • London Stansted, 23rd July
  • Rome Ciampino, 23rd July
  • Gothenburg, 23rd July
  • Oslo Sandefjord, 1st September
  • Karlsruhe/Baden Baden, 2nd September
  • Paris Beauvais, 2nd September
  • Memmingen, 3rd September
  • Frankfurt Hahn, 3rd September
  • Dortmund, 3rd September
  • Podgorica, 4th September
  • Malmö, 4th September
  • Düsseldorf Weeze, 4th September

London Stansted, Rome Ciampino, and Gothenburg are all launching on 23rd July instead of early September as originally planned. Milan Bergamo is launching in mid-June instead of July as originally planned.

Lauda A320
Zagreb Airport will be a Lauda Europe base for Ryanair, so flights with aircraft based there will be operated by Airbus A320s. Photo: Getty Images

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How has Croatia Airlines responded?

Croatia Airlines has not made any operational moves so far to respond to the arrival of Ryanair on its home territory. The airline has held talks with Ryanair and the Croatian Government with the intention to see its own fees at Zagreb Airport reduced.

However, Zagreb Airport is not budging, at least so far. The airport has not offered any specific deal to Ryanair: it has announced an incentives program that offers major discounts on flight operations for airlines that launch new routes to the airport.

Ryanair has done exactly that: the airline has launched 14 brand new routes that have never been served out of Zagreb. But Croatia Airlines does not see it that way, and it wants its own fees at Zagreb lowered on the basis that it accounts for half of its passenger traffic.

What do you think of the emerging battle between Ryanair and Croatia Airlines? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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