Ryanair plans to bring two to three million passengers to Zagreb in the next three years and is opening its Zagreb base earlier than planned due to big interest and demand, the company's commercial director, Jason McGuinness, has told Hina.
He said Ryanair decided to open the Zagreb base at the end of July, two months earlier than planned, owing to the high number of bookings and requests from Zagreb as well as high demand for flights to Zagreb.
Ryanair will have one plane in the Zagreb base by the end of August and introduce a second one in September, McGuinness said, adding that, depending on demand, the company could introduce a third plane in winter.
Ryanair plans flights to Zagreb throughout the year and already has plans for flights from Zagreb to 14 destinations as of November and to about 30 by summer 2022, he said, adding that before Ryanair’s arrival Zagreb had flights to 38 destinations.
McGuinness said he was surprised by the bookings from Zagreb because expectations of this year still depend on the pandemic and travel restrictions, adding that at the moment there was big competition for the summer for flights to sunny destinations like Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Croatia.
Ryanair will not fly to Zagreb only with Zagreb planes as it has 450 planes and can fly to Zagreb from its other 80 European bases as well, he said.
Asked how long the company planned to have a base in Zagreb, he said Ryanair saw big potential in Zagreb and that it would commit to its own and Zagreb Airport’s development.
He said the company would decide on routes based on developments and that costs were one of the main points in its decisions.
Ryanair said earlier that it would need about 60 workers in Zagreb. Asked if they would hire them here or bring them from other countries, McGuinness said people from Zagreb and Zadar would work in those two bases but possibly from other countries as well.
He said the Zadar base would operate during the summer with two planes, in which Ryanair was investing €200 million.
McGuinness said that in order to overcome the pandemic and other challenges, the company was cooperating with partners across Europe in looking for recovery options, including in Croatia.
He said Ryanair had been flying to Croatia since 2006, transporting about five million passengers.
He said the company knew that tourism accounted for 20% of Croatia’s GDP and that, in cooperation with the Zagreb, Zadar and other airports, it was bringing investment, considering that the right way to help transport recover.
This summer, besides Zadar and Zagreb, Ryanair will also fly to Pula. It will have 58 routes to Croatia, including 33 new ones.
McGuinness said Ryanair had a couple of routes to Dubrovnik and Split as well but that the taxes at their airports were too high and that reaching an agreement was not very likely.
Asked if the company was satisfied with the agreement reached with Zagreb Airport, he said agreements could always be better and that Ryanair was dedicated to Zagreb, but that its focus was always on the price.
He said he was happy the agreement was reached and that Ryanair would fly to Zagreb and set its base there earlier than planned.
McGuinness went on to say that this year Ryanair would introduce two flights to Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina and that it also operated in Banja Luka, BiH, Podgorica, Montenegro and Niš, Serbia, while its largest base near Croatia is Italy with 70 planes.
As for flying Ryanair during the pandemic, he said it was safe in every sense, including health-wise, because safety was a priority for the company.
He said the EU Digital Green Certificate was a good idea as it would facilitate travel this summer, adding that Ryanair had launched the COVID-19 Travel Wallet which is available only in the Ryanair app.
Croatia Airlines’ complaints inappropriate
Asked to comment on Croatia Airlines’ complaints that Ryanair “will push us out of some of our routes,” McGuinness said it was inappropriate of the company to complain at all because, he added, it had received millions of euros in illegal state aid.
He said CA generated neither growth nor profit in the past four years and that whereas Ryanair would bring 14 new routes to Zagreb this year, CA brought only three in the past four.
Asked if CA was competition for Ryanair in Croatia, he said competition was always good for customers, airports and Ryanair, including for Croatia, Zagreb and its airport and residents.