Why is airBaltic avoiding Zagreb?

In announcing new routes for the summer season of 2024, airBaltic announced the arrival from Riga to three airports in the so-called “region”: Ljubljana, Skopje, and Pristina. There is no Zagreb in the announcement, even though Riga is on the list of co-financed lines to be established from the incentive program published in spring 2023. We asked the administration of Franjo Tuđman Airport why airBaltic bypassed Zagreb and the query with the answer are transmitted in full.

AvioRadar: “Zagreb Airport announced a new incentive program for opening new lines in March 2023, the goal of which was to establish a total of 16 new lines. As none of the planned 16 lines have been established to date, we would like to know if you can comment on whether there is interest shown by the airlines, and whether there are any announcements for the launch of new destinations from Zagreb.

Furthermore, how do you comment on the statements that say airlines bypass Zagreb because of the conditions provided to Ryanair? Specifically, AirBaltic is opening 3 new routes from Riga to Ljubljana, Skopje, and Pristina. In the same announcement, there is no Zagreb, although Riga is on the list of destinations from the above-mentioned incentive program.”

Franjo Tuđman Airport: “Zagreb International Airport has several different models in the incentive program, which are designed to encourage the expansion of the network of destinations and increase traffic through financial support for airlines. The incentive model for connecting the capital cities, which came into force in June 2023 and will be in effect until May 2026, is a model that provides greater financial support for the simultaneous opening of a larger number of destinations, compared to support for the opening of an individual destination.

Airport fees and incentives are just one of many elements, not usually known to the public, that influence carriers’ decisions to revise their flight schedules. However, flight schedule changes are the sole commercial decision of the carrier. Since the beginning of the concession period in 2013, Zagreb International Airport has not commented on its negotiations with carriers, taking into account business ethics.

It should be emphasized that Zagreb International Airport is the recipient of numerous recognitions for the quality of service from passengers and the business community, we achieved the fastest recovery from the extremely negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Republic of Croatia, and recorded one of the fastest recoveries in the European Union. Zagreb International Airport remains determined in its efforts to expand the network of destinations, increase the variety of air traffic activities, and provide the best possible travel experience to all its guests.”

During 2021, Croatia Airlines publicly commented that Ryanair enjoys preferential conditions in the form of passenger fees at Franjo Tuđman Airport. For comparison, they presented a flight to Brussels, where Ryanair flies to Charleroi Airport (CRL), and Croatia Airlines flies to “main” BRU. Ryanair received support for the opening of the mentioned route, in which it then paid a passenger tax of €3.50, while CTN was paying €17.50. Franjo Tuđman Airport explained this as part of the incentives for opening new routes, although it is debatable whether a route for the same city, but a different airport, qualifies as new. The same was the case for the 7 lines where CTN overlapped with RYR. Informed sources comment that such and similar privileges still exist, and that some airlines are bypassing Zagreb because of them. The latter could be confirmed by the fact that, despite the co-financing program for new routes, none of the planned 16 has yet been announced for establishment.

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