United Arab Emirates (UAE) hub carrier Emirates Airline is to further expand its European network with its first flights into Croatia this summer and the introduction of daily services between Dubai International Airport and Franjo Tuđman (Pleso) International Airport in Zagreb. With the recent retirement of its Airbus A330 and A340 fleets, the route will be inaugurated using a Boeing 777-300 bringing over 5,000 weekly two-way seats into the market.
The flight will commence from June 1, 2017 and will be the only regularly scheduled widebody operation into Zagreb. The 777-300 is configured in a three-class arrangement offering seats for 12 First Class, 42 Business Class and 310 Economy passengers.
“Emirates has had a commercial presence in Croatia since 2003, so to launch full operations is a natural progression,” said Thierry Antinori, executive vice president and chief commercial officer, Emirates Airline. “We are committed to our contribution to growing the trade and tourism flows between Croatia and Dubai, as well as encouraging incoming tourism from the Middle East and Asia Pacific.”
Croatia is a popular destination for business and leisure travel from around the world, with growth in particular with tourists from Far Eastern destinations like South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore, plus Australia. This market is mainly served presently by Qatar Airways via Doha and Turkish Airlines via Istanbul as European hub links involve additional westbound flying.
Qatar Airways has served Zagreb since May 2012 initially linking it to and from Doha via Budapest. It introduced non-stop flights in October 2014 and plans to boost capacity from March 26, 2017 as an A321 replaces a smaller A320 on its QR217/218 rotation. Turkish Airlines will this summer again offer up to two return flights per day on the Istanbul - Zagreb city pair, with a slight reduction in frequencies during the winter schedule.
Dubbed the new ‘Silicon Valley’ owing to its reputation for being an incubator for tech start-ups thanks to a growing population of highly-educated young professionals, Zagreb is central to industry in the region. In addition to new technology and telecoms, many of the largest Croatian and Central European companies and conglomerates have their headquarters or regional offices in the city centre.
Emirates believes the new flights will not only benefit travellers in Croatia, but also those in neighbouring Slovenia and even the southern regions of Hungary and Austria making it more convenient to travel on the flight Emirates to Dubai and beyond. Scheduling means markets such as Shanghai, Beijing, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Melbourne, Maldives, Seychelles and Sri Lanka can all be reached within a four hour transit window in Dubai.
In the last year, an estimated 330,000 passengers flew between Zagreb and markets across the Middle East, Asia and Australasia with single direction flows of around 30,000 from Zagreb to the Gulf nations, 45,000 to Far East Asia and over 50,000 to the Middle East, according to the AirVision Market Intelligence tool from Sabre Airline Solutions. These passenger flows are dominated by direct and indirect flights of Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines which account for 71 per cent of this demand.