Routes Over Southern Africa: The Airline Industry of Zambia

Routes Over Southern Africa: The Airline Industry of Zambia

Touching on the topic of airlines, Zambia presents a somewhat unique case as it strives to establish itself as the new aviation hub of the southern African region by 2029. To date, the country has a total of 6 private airlines with the government ambitious to establish a new flag carrier to serve the Zambian population and tourists along with fostering the country’s steady economic development.

Proflight Zambia

Proflight Zambia

One of Zambia’s leading airlines, Proflight Zambia was established in 1991 as Proflight Air Services before being given its current name in 2010. Since its inception, the airline has continued to provide domestic and regional flights. Until now Proflight Zambia possesses a fleet of 4 aircraft, namely two BAe Jetstream 41, a CRJ 100LR, and DHC-8-300.

From its base in Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, the airline touches down in such destinations as Livingstone, Mfuwe, Lower Zambezi (Jeki airstrip), Ndola and Solwezi, along with providing flights to Johannesburg in South Africa.

Mahogany Air

Also with its hub at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, this private airline was founded by molecular scientist Jim Belemu in 2013 and commenced its first flights 3 years later. Although it experienced financial losses, Belemu persevered intent on contributing to the government’s aviation expansion scheme.

Using two EMB-120ER aircraft, Mahogany Air touches down at several Zambian destinations that include Livingstone, Mansa, Ndola, and Solwezi along with the addition of a sole exterior flight to Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Royal Air Charters

Royal Air Charters

One of the most active airlines in Zambia since 2007, Royal Air Charters uses two EMB120ERs along with an EMB-145LR to provide premium corporate and touristic charter services in the country.

Whilst its work has spanned predominantly domestic destinations, recently the airline launched its sister company – Royal Zambian Airlines, establishing scheduled regional flights between Kenneth Kaunda International to Johannesburg O.R. Tambo.

Zambia Airways

A Boeing 737-200 from former flag carrier, Zambia Airways

Although over the years Zambia has operated two now-defunct flag carrier airlines, with the last closing in 1994, the country continues to push for a new one in an effort to provide better aviation services in the region.

“We have done everything which means that from a government perspective, we have enabled the environment for Zambia Airways to fly again. It [launch date] is not for the government to determine because the airline is a commercial entity, a joint venture” explains Mutotwe Kafwaya – Zambian Transport and Communications Minister.

Arising through a joint venture between the Zambian Industrial Development Corporation and Ethiopian Airlines; the new airline was initially given a December 2020 launch date, but this was unfortunately delayed due to renewed travel restrictions stemming from the covid-19 pandemic. This continues a trend of delays experienced by the airline since it was first pondered in 2018. As a result little is known of the airline’s initial fleet capacity and new launch plans are yet to be formally disclosed.

Staravia

Founded in 1982, this charter airline provides private services in Zambia and extends its operations to bordering countries. Starting off with one aircraft, over the years the airline has expanded to own several piston and turbine-powered airplanes.

Much To Do

In terms of airports, Zambia is well on its way to fostering an ideal landscape capable of attracting foreign flyers to the region but sadly, the same cannot be said regarding the country’s airlines. While the various private efforts in Zambia do provide high-quality services to regional travelers, it is predominantly to domestic destinations with sole international coverage going as far as South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is further aggravated by the fact that the country has failed to establish its new flag carrier since 2018 and lacks any large passenger aircraft. If the Zambian authorities really wish to solidify the country as a solid aviation hub in the near future, much needs to be done towards its airline industry to realize the dream.

 

Touch Down in the Savannah: The Airports of Zambia

Touch Down in the Savannah: The Airports of Zambia

Throughout the early 21st century Zambia pioneered as one of the fastest-growing African economies. Achieving middle-income status by 2011, the country developed powerful mining and agricultural industries that combined with one of the most attractive wildlife ecologies brought the country into the limelight of African development. Landlocked between The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia, a prominent aviation infrastructure is essential to give the country efficient access to the rest of the world.

A total of 23 airports accommodate for the diverse commercial and charter operations in the Zambian airspace, all of which are regulated by the Department of Civil Aviation of Zambia. Whilst the majority of these airports are small and practical in nature, several stand out for having international status and scheduled flights along with being in strategic locations that feed the tourism economy.

Kenneth Kaunda International Airport

The Kenneth Kaunda International Airport is located 27km from the capital city

Operational since 1967 Kenneth Kaunda International was constructed to serve the countries capital – Lusaka, providing domestic and regional flights. It was first known as Lusaka International before being renamed after the country’s first president.

Located 27km from the capital city, Kenneth Kaunda International is the country’s largest and most active airport and acts as the base of the majority of Zambia’s scheduled and charter airlines including Proflight Zambia, Mahogany Air, Big Dog Aviation and the cargo carrier Stabo Air.

In 2015, the airport was given an expansion project with a set budget of $360 million, provided by government funds and a loan from the EXIM Bank of China. Furthermore, the new terminal’s design was fulfilled by the China Airports Corporations whilst China Jiangsu was the executing contractor. Set for completion by 2021, the airport will receive new passenger and cargo terminals, office space, an improved air traffic control tower along with upgraded emergency and firefighting facilities. In addition, passenger services will also be enhanced with such additions as a shopping mall and hotel. When completed the new airport will have a six million annual passenger capacity with the ambition to make the Zambian capital a new hub for the Southern African region.

Aside from its single 3,962m asphalt runway that is used by commercial flyers, the airport also has an 823m grass airstrip that is more suited for light aircraft. Along with local Zambian airlines, there are many regional and international airlines that touchdown at Kenneth Kaunda International including Air Tanzania, Kenya Airways, and Emirates.

Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport

Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport was originally built by the British Royal Air Force British during WWII

Found in proximity to the northern city of Ngola, not far from the bordering DRC, Simon Mwansa Kapwepe International is named after the nation’s former vice president. It serves as the central air portal for residents and visitors to the cities found in the Copperbelt Province.

It was originally built by the British Royal Air Force British during WWII before being passed to civilian use in the 1950s. To this day the same military terminal has been in use untouched, aside from the addition of some auxiliary buildings.

Simon Mwansa Kempe International has two runways, the main one measuring 2,500m whilst the second is shorter at 1,200m long. Given its primitive construction, the airport cannot accommodate large aircraft. It sees traffic from such airlines as Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways along with local flyers.

Construction of a new airport commenced in 2021, dubbed the Copperbelt International Airport and is intended to replace Simon Mwansa Kapawepe International. Handled by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the airport is set to have a single 3,500m runway and provide improved air transport services to two million annual flyers to the region.

Mfuwe International Airport

Mfuwe International Airport has a single asphalt runway that measures 2,200m

Found in the Mambwe district, Mfuwe Airport has been serving the touristic region of the Luangwa valley since the 1970s, most notably used to give tourists access to one of the largest natural reserves in Zambia – South Luangwa National Park.

The airport has a single asphalt runway that measures 2,200m and regularly sees traffic from two airlines, Proflight Zambia and Ulendo Airlink. With an annual terminal capacity of 100,000 passengers, the airport provides daily flights to Lusaka and Lilongwe

Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International

Formerly known as Livingstone Airport, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula serves the flocks of tourists visiting the natural wonders of Victoria Falls that stand just 15km away from the airport. Since the falls are some of the most popular attractions in Africa, the airport received several expansions between 2011-17 to accommodate for increasing traffic. Costing $50 million, the project gave the airport a modern terminal with a total space of 7,000m2 whilst the old terminal will be refurbished and reverted to domestic and VIP uses.

The airport sports two runways; both asphalt, the longer of the two measures 2,293m whilst the second is 1,372m long. There are several airlines and charters that frequent the airport such as British Airways, Airlink along with the local airline Proflight Zambia.

Grand Plans

Although the economic boom experienced by Zambia has slowed due to several factors such as lowered costs of copper and the significant drop in tourism seen during the covid-19 pandemic, the country has built an impressive roster of airports nonetheless. Furthermore, it seems that the Zambian government is keen to solidify the country as an aviation hub by 2029, and numerous airport expansion plans are set to make this dream a reality.

 

Flight Through Tropical Skies: The Aviation Landscape of Cape Verde

Flight Through Tropical Skies: The Aviation Landscape of Cape Verde

Cape Verde is a volcanic archipelago consisting of ten islands found off the northwest coast of Africa. Given the complex nature of archipelago life, aviation is a key element for fostering the economy and facilitating effective transport between the various islands whilst avoiding the harsh ocean waves. As a result, Cape Verde has an airport on every one of its islands excluding Brava and Santo Antao. In addition to its two airlines, the country has an active aviation infrastructure that caters to residents’ needs and welcomes tourists to its tropical shores.

Airports

Amílcar Cabral International Airport

Amílcar Cabral International Airport

Serving the most popular Island of Sal in the Cape Verde archipelago, Amiclar Cablar International is the country’s main international airport and sky portal. Located in the city of Esparagos, it was first constructed by Italian authorities to be used as a refuelling point for flights connecting Italy to South American destinations. Later it was purchased from the Italian government by the Portuguese colonizing authorities. 

While it saw active flights between Europe and Latin America, primarily undertaken by Alitalia, by 1961 advancing jet technology, notably the use of DC-8 aircraft rendered the island stop unnecessary and international flights were put on hiatus. Several years later in 1967, the airport saw a new spark of interest when South African Airways, Cubana and Aeroflot recused the airport for refuelling and provisions.  

Today Amiclar Cablar international consists of one two-storey terminal that houses the necessary check-in, arrival and departure zones along with duty-free and passenger services. With four gates, the airport relies on buses to transport passengers between airplanes and the terminal. It has the longest runway in the archipelago; measuring 3,272m it is capable of accommodating large aircraft and is used for long-haul flights, whilst the second runway at 1,500m, is more suitable for private and light and aircraft.

The airport is used primarily to feed Cape Verde’s tourism sector, seeing regular flights from such airlines as Neos, TUI fly and Azores Airlines. It also welcomes a slew of seasonal charters to cater for the annual periods of increased demand. In addition, it is also the base for the country’s two airlines, the flag carrier Cabo Verde Airlines along with Cabo Verde Express.

Nelson Mandela International Airport 

Also known as Praia International Airport, Cape Verde’s second most active airport is located on the southeast side of Santiago Island, 3km from the capital city of Praia. It is a relatively young airport having been inaugurated in 2005 to replace the now-defunct Francisco Mendes International Airport. In January 2012, the Cape Verde government chose to rename the airport Nelson Mandela International, in hommage to the South African leader. 

The airport has a single 1,900m runway and features scheduled flights to 12 destinations in 5 countries along with providing six domestic flights between the islands. Regularly seen airlines at the airport include Royal Air Maroc, TAP Portugal, Oren Air, Air Senegal and TICV.

Aristides Pereira International Airport

Aristides Pereira International Airport

Found off the island of Boa Vista, Aristides Pereira International stands 5km southeast of the island’s main city of Sal Rei. It was originally a primitive airport that was given an upgrade in 2005 qualifying it for international certification. 

As part of the expansion project, the airport extended its runway from 1,200 to 2,100m along with upgrading its terminal and safety facilities. Up until 2011, the airport had been called Rabil Airport but received its new name after the country’s first president Aristides Pereira. 

As Cape Verde’s third busiest airport it regularly receives aircraft from such flyers as TAP Air Portugal, TICV, TUI Airways along with also receiving its share of seasonal voyages. 

Airlines

Cabo Verde Airlines 

Cabo Verde Airlines

Taking base at Amiclar Cabral International Airport, Cabo Verde Airlines was established in 1958 expanding on the local airline Aero Club of Cabo Verde. It served solely domestic flights within the archipelago until 1984 when the airline began to see international activity in response to the growing Cape Verde diaspora in Europe. The first international flight undertaken by the flag carrier touched down in Lisbon in 1985. 

Today the airline is an IATA member and continues to serve both domestic and international destinations. The continued growth of the Cape Verdean community overseas along with the growing popularity of Cape Verde as a tourist destination since the 90s has kept the airline active with a steady stream of fliers. Currently, the airline owns a total of 3 aircraft namely Boeing 737-800s. 

With the goal to privatise the airline, in March of 2019, the Cape Verdean government had sold the airline to Loftleidir CV, a joint enterprise between the Icelandair subsidiary Loftleidir along with other Icelandic investors. Although at first, the outlook was promising, Cape Verdean authorities soon felt that the new administration’s governing and financial schemes would be ineffective to lead the flag carrier. Reversing the agreement, the government issued a decree expropriating Loftleidir and renationalizing the airline. In effect, the decree gave back the government the 51% stake it had sold to the Icelandic firm, for a total of 90% public ownership whilst 10% of the airline remains in the hands of airline employees and expatriates in Cape Verde.

Up until the 2020 pandemic, the airline had served several destinations such as Luanda, Paris, Rome, and Boston along with providing domestic flights. Since operations have been halted since March 2020 as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, its administration has taken this as an opportunity to revamp the airline before restarting operations. 

Cabo Verde Express

This regional airline also has its hub in  Amiclar Cabral International Airport and provides scheduled domestic as well as charter flights. It was founded in 1998 by the French pilot and entrepreneur Jean-Christophe Bartz. Early operations were undergone with Cessna Caravan aircraft and soon the airport had added Let L-410 Turbolet aircraft. 

Today the airline offers a long list of diverse aviation services from ground handling and maintenance to passenger transportation and even catering services. 

TICV

A scheduled domestic and charter airline, TICV provides inter-island transport and services using a fleet of two ATR72-500 aircraft. Based in Nelson Mandela International Airport, the airline took over domestic flights replacing TACV – Cabo Verde Airlines in 2017 as the government chose the latter to focus on international endeavours. 

TICV covers eight routes within Cape Verde serving a total of 7 destinations. 

Future Plans

As is the case with many island nations, aviation is essential for international access and economic productivity but at the same time comes at a great cost due to geographic and climatic challenges. Overall Cape Verde has fostered a moderate aviation landscape throughout the volcanic archipelago; with its numerous airports spread throughout the islands and flag carrier airline (albeit its current hiatus) but the country can still profit more from private airlines and increased charter activity between the islands. 

High Tranquility: Modern Aircraft Comfort Concepts

High Tranquility: Modern Aircraft Comfort Concepts

From the basic folding table to in-flight screens and even on-board Wi-Fi, these ideas all started as wacky sketches before going mainstream. While more times than others these visions do not stray far from the drawing board, once in a while they are fully realized and made available to the general public. Eways Aviation delves into some of the ambitious concepts that could revolutionize the air transport experience.

Infrared Cabin Warming

The technology consists of a material coating that when exposed to an electric current, gradually warms up and emits this heat to nearby surroundings through infrared

Cabin temperature has many times been a controversial topic for travelers and cabin crew; with enthusiastic voyagers dressed in their leisure attire shivering from cold temperatures, whilst their devoted cabin crew in uniforms request a cooler environment to keep them from stifling as they go about their duties.

Given the fact that the external temperatures at high altitudes can go so low as -45 degrees celsius, on-board climate control can be a challenging feat, especially for longer flights. Furthermore, adhering to FAA regulations on fresh air ventilation rates adds to the difficulty of giving passengers a pleasant cabin temperature. 

Whilst normally airlines readily provide their voyagers with blankets to negate the cold temperatures, Austrian firm Liteheat, a subsidiary of the Villinger Group, is proposing a cutting-edge solution for passenger comfort whilst keeping cabin crew from collapsing from the heat.

The technology consists of a material coating that when exposed to an electric current, gradually warms up and emits this heat to nearby surroundings through infrared. As a result, it can be applied throughout aircraft in proximity to passenger seating, providing them with heated corners whilst the cabin crew profit from the cooler ambience of the main cabin. Infrared heating like this has slowly made its way into high-tech homes, but this will be its first application in the world of air transport. 

An added benefit of the technology is its significant lightweight, adding only 150g per square meter, and with a 0.2mm thickness, it can be stealthily applied to any aircraft surface and covered with a finish to retain aesthetic appeal. This means that Liteheat has little to no impact on fuel efficiency, an important factor in modern operations. Furthermore, the material is extremely resilient making it an economical choice for aircraft manufacturers, thus improving the flight experience with little added costs. 

The LSEAT

The new chair utilises a sliding lower seat cushion that has mobility down and forwards combined with a subtly reclining backrest

Whilst it is well known that flyers on a budget don’t get the same in-flight sleep quality as is available to their business and first-class counterparts, Belgian pilot and inventor, Yves Hendrickx has created a refined seating mechanism that could revolutionize napping in coach. 

Coined the LSEAT, the new chair utilises a sliding lower seat cushion that has mobility down and forwards combined with a subtly reclining backrest, putting passengers in a position more natural to sleeping than traditional economy seating. 

Nominated for a Crystal Cabin Award, the genius of the seat is the fact that it requires no electrical powering, or cabin assistance to achieve its desired purpose; instead, it relies solely on a spring-powered mechanism that budges under the force of passenger body weight. Furthermore, since the general design of the seat does not deviate far from the familiar economy seats, Hendrickx’s design will not strain airlines by occupying more space or putting aircraft through long periods of AOG during their installation. 

In terms of marketing potential, Hendrickx has proposed that airlines install his seats in a segment of their economy cabins which can be sold to passengers as a ‘premium’ option. Combined with their efficient installation, this scenario could significantly boost airline profitability whilst keeping passengers snoozing.

Large Cabin Bathrooms

Over the years, cabin bathrooms have been gradually shrinking to the point where they are bordering on uncomfortably narrow. Looking to maximise profits, airlines have been requested more seating space in an effort to cram as many passengers on-board as possible with much of that extra space taken from the on-board lavatories. Whilst this may be a minor inconvenience for the average passenger, it is a much larger issue for travels with disabilities and even mothers changing diapers. 

Addressing this pressing matter, AirGo has devised SPACE, a larger airplane bathroom design that adds some extra toilet space, without impeding on plane capacity. Since widebody planes currently come equipped with more ample lavatories, SPACE was conceptualized with single-aisle aircraft in mind. 

Using a triangular-based design, the SPACE bathroom will provide adequate space for larger travelers, wheelchair users and other individuals that require the added room in private. It was proposed in conjunction with AirGo’s Galaxy Cabin design; a business class seating concept that would leave ample room at the end of the cabin for two SPACE lavatories. In fact not only does the design retain the same number of seats, it provides four more than the conventional business class cabin. 

Octaspring Seat Cushions 

The Octaspring is a light seat padding concept that will cut aircraft weight significantly along with providing added comfort for passengers.

For years airlines have been devising ways to cut weight from aircraft, sometimes even going to bizarre measures such as the story of American Airlines removing a single olive from in-flight meals in 1987, which saved the airline $40,000 and shredded a little mass off the aircraft to cut fuel consumption. Other attempts were more creative, such as Virgin Atlantic integrating thinner more compact glassware and eliminating slate plates from first-class to further the cause. 

Providing an elegant solution to one of the most challenging aspects of reducing airplane seat weight, the Slovenian firm Vanema has created the Octaspring; a light seat padding concept that will cut aircraft weight significantly along with providing added comfort for passengers. Reduced weight means more efficient aircraft performance and less fuel consumption, a significant bonus in a cost-centric industry serving environment-conscious travelers.

Using a hexagonal lattice of foam springs, the Octaspring uses half the amount of material that solid padding requires to be effective, resulting in the same or improved seating experience at 30% of the weight. Furthermore, the concept is highly ergonomic, with the spring technology adapting to the seating postures and weight distribution of its occupants for added relaxation. In addition, the material remains cool due to the ventilative nature of the foam that expels hot air and humidity as passengers move, for an optimum seating experience.

Keeps Getting Better 

In a world filled with visionary pioneers armed with rapidly evolving technology at their disposal, the average flying experience is only set to improve in the decades to come. With endless potential, the sky is the limit when it comes to passenger comfort. 

Flight Over the Adriatic: Croatia’s Zealous Airline Industry

Flight Over the Adriatic: Croatia’s Zealous Airline Industry

Croatia Airlines maintains a fleet of 13 primarily Airbus aircraft

With its stunning landscapes, rich history and soothing beaches, Croatia has grown to be one of the most significant leisure destinations in Europe. To ensure that the country maximises its touristic potential it continues to nurture an eclectic aviation sector; with a successful flag carrier, pool of charters and start-ups, Eways Aviation examines the airlines of Croatia as it prepares for the high season. 

Croatia Airlines

Established in 1989 under the name Zagal Airlines (previously Zagreb Airlines), the airline launched operations with Cessna 402 C Type aircraft and served primarily as a transporter for UPS. Later the airline’s steady expansion was perturbed by the regional conflict that forced the airline to halt its operations. Following on, set to recover its losses the airline acquired its first Boeing 737s aircraft in a deal with Lufthansa and became a member of IATA as it embarked upon its first international flights to Frankfurt.

Today the airline maintains a fleet of 13 primarily Airbus aircraft such as the A319-100, A320-200 and ATR42-300. Having served its 20 millionth flyer by 2009 and continuing to serve an average of 1 million passengers per year the airline continues to prosper. 

Visting eight domestic and 20 international destinations in 16 countries, Croatia Airlines aircraft regularly touches down in such areas as Austria, Sarajevo, Lyon, Athens and Dublin. 

Pragusa.One 

This new private Croatian airline was set to commence operations in June 2021, with leased A330-200 and A330-300 aircraft, initially providing two direct flights to Newark and Los Angeles from Dubrovnik International.

The name Pragusa.One, although giving the impression that it is an amalgamation of Prague and the USA is in fact a combination of Prague and Ragusa, the preceding name of Dubrovnik city. 

In the near future, the new carrier intends to rapidly expand its operational network, hosting flights between the United States, Africa and Asia to Europe. Furthermore, by 2024, the airline plans to maintain a fleet of four aircraft.

“Our long-term plan is to have nonstop flights from Los Angeles, New York, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Beijing, Chengdu, and Tokyo in 2022. We will operate from two bases – Prague and Dubrovnik – with a fleet of A330 and A350 aircraft. Alongside that, we will put a special focus on the development of the Chinese market and a special A350 sub fleet to operate just to China” says Krešimir Budinski – Pragusa.One – Managing Director

Unfortunately, the airline failed to live up to the hype and the launch of flights to American destinations missed the deadline with no clear explanation as to why. Although sill intending to commence with the same routes, no alternative launch date has been specified.

Trade Air

Trade Air first started as a cargo but now is providing a large range of services

Starting its operations in the spring of 1994, Trade Air is a passenger charter and cargo transporter based in Zagreb International Airport. In its primary stages,  the airline used primarily L-410 Turbolet aircraft, later acquiring Fokker F100 planes.

While at first, it provided solely cargo services, Trade Air commenced scheduled flights within Croatia in 2004 and by 2016 the airline had received its first A320 airplane. 

Today the company provides a range of services, continuing to transport cargo along with offering private and passenger charter flights, scheduled voyages and aircraft leasing. It maintains a fleet of five aircraft namely three A320-200s, one A319-100 and a single F100, that the company has put up for sale.

Furthermore, the airline has chosen several sister bases in Europe, notably Paris Charles De Gaulle where it has stationed two Airbus planes, another in Pristina, Kosovo and also in the Slovenian city, Ljubljana. 

Whilst the company provides domestic flights between the Croatian cities of Osijek Zagreb, Rijeka, Pula, Split and Dubrovnik, it also provides a seasonal flight program to such destinations as Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Finland, Spain, France and Tunisia taking off from its bases throughout Europe.   

Air Pannonia 

Air Pannonia was founded in 1993  with light aircraft purchased from Hungary. The company provides diverse services such as goods transport, aircraft maintenance, individual plane booking along with operating a pilot school. Its fleet includes some Cessna Citation 525A CJ2 and CJ aircraft along with 152-9A-KZM and a Socata TB-20 Trinidad 9A-DKZ bought from Switzerland.

ETF Airways

ETF Airways plans to launch operations in the summer of 2021

A new Croatian start-up airline preparing to launch charter services throughout Europe, ETF Airways is based in Zagreb and plans to launch operations in the summer of 2021 operations with Boeing 737-800 aircraft, the first of which it received from AerCap, formerly managed by the French ASL Airlines. In addition, the airline is set to acquire another two planes by the end of 2022. 

In terms of its destination plan, ETF Airways is eyeing charter operations within Europe excluding domestic flights to avoid direct competition with budget flyers that frequent Croatia, including Ryanair that holds several bases and is active within the country’s airspace. Furthermore, the airline has hope that European covid vaccination programs will lead to lessened restrictions and a prosperous start for operations. 

“The market is recovering quickly after the spring easing of the pandemic. The demand for our services outside Croatia is growing above our expectations,”  explains Stjepan Bedić – CEO – ETF Airways.

Upon receiving its AOC in May 2021 the airline undertook its first flight a month later between Pristina and Helsinki.

Soaring Over The Sea

Whilst it can be said that Croatia possesses a relatively new aviation landscape that saw its expansions upon the country’s independence in the early 90s, it is a powerful contributor to the country’s budding economy to say the least. Capitalizing on the country’s strong touristic appeal Croatia’s aviation landscape has been elevated by visitors and budget flyers putting Croatia on the list of promising European contenders. That said that country has room for more private airlines, specifically in the scheduled flight marketplace.

White Sand to Clear Sky: Croatia’s Ambitious Aviation Industry

White Sand to Clear Sky: Croatia’s Ambitious Aviation Industry

The new international terminal at Zagreb Airport was inaugurated on March 21, 2016

Croatia continues to expand its aviation network with its nine main international airports, a powerful flag carrier and a pool of charter airlines. Eways Aviation examines the air-transport facilities of the country as it prepares to welcome its annual stream of tourists. 

Zagreb Franjo Tuđman Airport

Operational since 1962 this airport is located near the town of Pleso outside of the Croatian capital. It started operations with a 2,500m runway and a small terminal that was expanded in 1966. Around a decade later the airport’s runway was also extended by an additional 752m.

Over the years the airport continued to receive strategic upgrades such as a new landing system in 2004 and VIP terminal in 2008 but by 2009 it was clear that Zagreb International Airport had reached its operational capacity of 2 million passengers per year and needed an extensive revamp to accommodate for Croatia’s budding tourism industry.

As a result, a new terminal was constructed between 2013-17, costing a total of 392 million dollars, with a 5 million annual passenger capacity, more than double its predecessor.

Aside from Croatian Airlines, international airlines that frequent Zagreb’s airport include Lufthansa, Emirates and Qatar Airways along with Air France and Eurowings. 

Furthermore, in 2021, the Irish airline Ryanair chose Zagreb International airport as a new base. Launching on July 23rd, two aircraft will serve Zagreb International with 36 weekly flights and the addition of twelve new routes for the airline throughout Western Europe. The strategic timing hopes to profit from the public desire to travel after extensive vaccination programs in Europe.

“We are delighted to accelerate the launch of our new base at Zagreb, which will offer our Croatian consumers popular destinations almost two months earlier than scheduled. This advanced opening will open up routes to European hotspots such as London Stansted, Gothenburg and Rome from July. We’re also pleased to announce a further two new routes to Malmö and Düsseldorf Weeze, both operating two departing flights per week from September” says Jason McGuinness – Commercial Director – Ryanair

Split International 

The country’s second busiest airport is located 24km from the South Eastern town of Split on the Kaštela Bay. Given its appealing natural attractions, the airport is a touristic gateway peaking with 3.3 million passengers in 2019. 

Split International Airport (known to some Resnik International) opened to public use in 1966, the airport was constructed with the intention of giving air access to the coastal region and isles of Croatia. By 1988 the airport had served a total of 1.2 million passengers and welcomed over 7,873 aircraft. Following a period of conflict and unrest, the airport went on hiatus that continued until 2000. During this time it was used primarily by military and cargo personnel. 

With the turn of the century, civil transport and tourism were reignited as the main economies of the region and Split Airport rapidly regained its traffic hitting the 1 million mark in 2006 and counting 1.2 million travelers in 2008. 

As the Croatian government continued to improve its leisure facilities, the airport’s annual traffic rapidly increased and in turn, the airport was refurbished between 2016-19 giving it a 3.5 million passenger capacity to avoid congestion as well as upgrading the airport’s general facilities, improving safety and overall traveler satisfaction.

Catered towards the tourism economy of the region, the airport welcomes a high number of seasonal voyages for the Europeans that spend their summers on Croatian beaches. Offers come from airlines such as Transavia, Iberia, easyJet, Swiss International Airlines and many more. Furthermore, the airport also has scheduled flights from Croatia Airlines along with Edelweiss Air, Eurowings, KLM and Trade Air amongst others.

Dubrovnik International

Dubrovnik International is Croatia’s third most popular aviation portal

Another coastal airport on the far southeast corner of the country, Dubrovnik International, also referred to as Čilipi Airport is Croatia’s third most popular aviation portal. Sitting near the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina along with Montenegro, the airport is a large contributor to the Croatian Tourism sector, especially during the summer season, and it is also credited for having the country’s longest runway, at 3,300m, well suited to receive heavy-long haul aircraft.  

With almost three million voyagers in 2019, Dubrovnik International is one of Croatia’s busiest airports, especially during the summer months. Tourists flock to the region to enjoy the beaches and green cliffs, visiting the various Game of Thrones filming locations that had been used throughout the popular series along with dabbling in the region’s rich culture and history. 

Even the airport itself is a touristic attraction as it had been built above an extensive cave network that was converted to a wine cellar that is open to the public. 

Technically speaking, Dubrovnik International features a single passenger terminal facility last upgraded in 2015. With a full capacity of 3.5 million passengers per year, the terminal spans 36,500m² with four jet bridges, duty-free shops and modern baggage handling facilities. 

As seen with Split International’s operational planning, Dubrovnik Airport also receives a mass of seasonal flights from a plethora of European airlines along with featuring some scheduled routes to such places as Athens, London, Istanbul and Barcelona.

Zadar International 

Zadar International

One of Croatia’s oldest active airports, Zadar International has been operating civilian flights since 1936 when it was frequented by the Italian airline Ala Littoria. Located in the town of Zemunik Donji, near the city of Zadar, the airport grants air-transport facilities to the regions of Dalmatia and Lika and has grown to become Croatia’s fourth busiest air facility. 

Before this, in the 1990s unfortunately, during a time of political turmoil, the airport was heavily destroyed and it was not until the Croatian government instated Operation Maslenica in 1993 that Zadar International was set for recovery. Aside from reconstruction, one of the main contributors to the airport’s growth and success was the wave of budget airlines that encouraged traffic to the region and secured the airport as a safe aviation gateway. By 2019, the airport had reported 700,000 passengers.  

Since 2013, it has acted as a base for Ryanair, housing a single Boeing 737-800 that serves various European destinations including Bremen, Gdansk, Paris Beauvais, Riga and Toulouse. Whilst initially set for 2020 release, the Covid-19 pandemic pushed Ryanair to delay adding 11 new routes from their Zadar base to 2021.

With its double 2,500m concrete and asphalt runways, the airport sees frequent seasonal traffic from a pool of European airlines along with having regular flights to Pula and Zagreb by Croatia Airlines.  

Looking Good

Although Croatia possesses a somewhat young aviation infrastructure that began to see serious development after the country’s independence in the early 90s, it stands impressive to say the least. Fueled by the country’s captivating landscapes and cultural appeal, tourists and budget flyers have elevated Croatian aviation to standing prominent in Europe.