[COMMENTAIR by Ivog]: Croatia Airlines flights to Australia

Although the title is a bit bombastic, in theory, Croatia Airlines can fly to Australia or any other carrier that has the desire, and manages to obtain permission from Australia. Australia has quite restrictive rules for airlines from other countries and they agree on exact capacities and frequencies with everyone.

We can say that it was agreed with Croatia back in 2007 that between the Croatian cities of Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik, there can be a total of 7 flights per week to Australian cities. But other Croatian cities are not excluded either, so in the event that a carrier wants to connect, for example, Pula or Rijeka with Sydney, it only has to submit the necessary papers to the Australian authorities. At the start, they said they would be very happy to consider and ultimately allow another weekly flight in addition to these 7 flights. Even though these 7 weekly flights are quite enough for our needs.

For freight transport, neither the capacity, nor the number of flights, or the aircraft is defined, but it remains up to the carrier itself to determine how many flights it wants on a weekly basis. If the carrier sees the potential, it can fly three times a day, but let’s be realistic.
The agreement also states that airlines from Australia can enter into codeshare, interline or other agreements with any airline from Australia or another country that flies to Croatia. In the 2023/2024 winter flight schedule, Australian airlines have codeshare agreements with Croatia on two routes. The first is Qantas on the flight London Heathrow – Zagreb, and the second is Virgin Australia on the flight Doha – Zagreb.

For 7 passenger flights per week between Croatia and Australia, the capacity and type of aircraft are not defined, so it can be Airbus A380, Boeing 787, Boeing 777 or even Airbus A220. Now there’s a catch, the A220. Starting this year, Croatia Airlines will start receiving Airbus A220 aircraft in the fleet to replace the existing fleet of the Airbus A320 series and De Havilland Dash 8-400 aircraft. So why shouldn’t Croatia send them to another part of the world?

Although the A220 does not have the necessary range to Australia, but as a regional aircraft it can “stretch its legs” a lot. The distance from Zagreb to Sydney is about 16,000 kilometers, and the Airbus A220 has a range of about 6,000 kilometers, which means in theory only 2 stops for refueling, but reality is something else. As one of the suggestions, this could be that potential flight: Zagreb – Dubai – Bangkok – Bali – Sydney.

In some past times, such a flight with several stopovers would have been a completely normal thing, but today it is still a bit exotic. But just imagine the possibility of traveling on that route. You can visit some of the most important tourist destinations in Asia, such as Thailand and Bali, with a domestic carrier, and then extend a little further to Australia. In the winter, maybe jump to Dubai and catch some sun. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it.

Distances between cities and approximate duration of flights:

  • Zagreb – Dubai: 4200 kilometers, ~6h flight time
  • Dubai – Bangkok: 4900 kilometers, ~7h flight time
  • Bangkok – Bali: 3000 kilometers, ~4h flight time
  • Bali – Sydney: 4600 kilometers, ~6h flight time

So, roughly, it would take a minimum of 26 hours from Zagreb to Sydney, if we calculate only 1 hour for the “turnaround” at the intermediate stops at the airports. In order to have a little more time, the turnaround could be an hour and a half, which would add another 2 hours to the entire trip, so in the end the trip from Zagreb to Sydney would take about 28 hours. It’s not much faster even with carriers with one stop in Dubai or Doha, just an hour or so shorter.

The theoretical flight order would look like this:

  • OU001 ZAG SYD 1900 0900+2 223
  • OU002 SYD ZAG 1200 0600+1 223

 

  • OU001 ZAG DXB 1900 0400+1 223
  • OU001 DXB BKK 0530+1 15:30+1 223
  • OU001 BKK DPS 1700+1 2200+1 223
  • OU001 DPS SYD 2330+1 0900+2 223
  • OU002 SYD DPS 1200 1500 223
  • OU002 DPS BKK 1630 1930 223
  • OU002 BKK DXB 2100 0100+1 223
  • OU002 DXB ZAG 0300 0600+1 223

For those flights, of course, they would have to put number 001 and number 002, because it would be a prestigious route.

Of course, such an operation would be very complex, because not one “set” of pilots and cabin crew could complete the entire route, there would have to be replacement crews somewhere along the way at intermediate stops. There is also the issue of air freedom, to allow passengers to travel only between stopover airports, for example between Dubai and Bangkok or Bangkok and Bali. Then, in case of any malfunction of the plane for example in Bali, its backup can only arrive in a day or two, so how to solve such challenges. The number of flights that Croatia Airlines could possibly cover is only 2 flights per week, because that one plane would be able to make only two “circles” in that week. Croatia’s fleet is too small to be able to cover daily flights to Sydney and at the same time, maintain all other flights in the network, so Croatia only two flights per week would be an option.

It would be interesting to see if such a flight could bring any profit or if it would be a complete failure and a sure loss of money. Would passengers accept a flight with so many stops, or would it be an aggravating circumstance for them to choose this trip. The big advantage of traveling with the A220 is that only one fifth of the passengers would be dissatisfied with their seat on the plane, all the rest would be happy, because they would be either by the aisle or next to the window. The eventual lack of a screen for entertainment during the flight is a disadvantige, but if you have internet and USB ports for charging mobile devices, there is no problem. Likewise, smaller aircraft capacity means less waiting time for boarding and disembarking from the aircraft.

For a flight like this, we can only dream and talk about how good it would be if something like that were to be started, but if Turkish can do it, why not Croatia too, hehe. It would be a little easier if Croatia Airlines had a wwidebody aircraft in its fleet, so it would be done with only one stopover. But many airlines from Europe no longer fly to Australia, nor do they plan to fly there.  Neither Lufthansa, nor Air France, KLM, Iberia, none of them fly to Australia. Only Turkish is now joining British Airways on this long route. A direct flight or a flight with some stops from one of Croatian airports to Australia is pure science fiction. If someone decides to make that move, it could only be Qantas, but even that is questionable as to where we are in terms of priority in Europe. So we will still have to transfer in one of the Asian airports to reach Australia.
From the marketing side, this would be a very interesting experiment and Croatia would probably get some attention in Asia, as many people would google the name of this new airline landing at their airports and learn about the country it comes from.

Finally, I can only mention that from the former Yugoslavia, only Serbia still has permission to fly to Australia. North Macedonia is also on the list, but they do not have defined capacities, nor the number of flights, so according to the current agreement, they cannot fly to Australia.
Like Croatia, Serbia has 7 flights per week to the cities of Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, while the difference is that they have unlimited capacity to any other airport in Australia.

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