Dubrovnik to Zagreb: Road Testing the New Terminals

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We booked our flights from Dubrovnik to Zagreb to finally experience the long-awaited new airport terminals in Dubrovnik and Zagreb to see how everything was going. Was everything really ready, were there any problems (well as you could have already read, there might be some problems with translation) and what passengers thought about the new terminals.

Cabin crew, prepare for take-off!

When I write “we booked our flights” I actually want to say that my boss called me on Sunday, told me to cancel all my plans for Tuesday and come to Zagreb. I think this is probably my 31st flight since the beginning of the year 2017, so I always have one luggage ready next to my writing desk, just in case.

I was actually very enthusiastic about embarking on this voyage and checking the new airports. Let’s be honest here, the previous Zagreb airport was just horrible, small in size, nothing to do, nowhere to go and the restrooms were built probably in the years when my role model was still Britney Spears. I was always a bit ashamed of that airport when I brought my friends to Croatia, but this time I wanted to see the new building and feel that national pride at first sight. And they didn’t let me down: if I were a football fan, I would probably have orn Football national team jersey.

Tuesday, Dubrovnik, Departure 12:55 p.m. (or so I hoped…)

The new passenger terminal in Dubrovnik started operating in February, 2017 and it has been announced that the moving to the new terminal will be completely finished by summer season 2017. In the first phase, terminal A is to be completely closed and check in counters and security checkpoints are to be moved to the new terminal.

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Further expansion is planned for completion in 2019. A new 24,181 square meters terminal with four jet bridges is under construction; the new terminal will have a projected annual capacity of 3.5 million passengers. The catchment area of Dubrovnik Airport is the southern part of Croatia, as well as parts of the neighboring countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.

One thing you immediately notice about this airport: it is impeccably clean and everything looks so shiny, bright and new that you don’t even want to depart. There is a plenty of space for the summer crowds, self service check-in machines are placed at the very beginning and this time all of them work (yaaay!), the atmosphere is very relaxed and people chill in the airport bar before departing. There is a currency exchange office, a few souvenir shops, Croatia Airlines office, TISAK kiosk and that would be it: not too many things to do, but having in mind that Dubrovnik is not a big town, and it is mostly a summer destination, we’re completely fine with this. They might add some more souvenir shops or food stands, but I guess (and hope) the management board is already discussing these options.

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The new Dubrovnik Airport still offers only 15min of free WiFi, argh! But let’s just think for a second here: why wouldn’t the airport management board or the tourism board in Dubrovnik enable free WiFi access at the airport, at least for one or two hours? 15 minutes is just ridiculously short.

Let’s just brainstorm this a bit: as the passengers wait for their flight, they get emotional and they might take a selfie or that “creative” photo of the tanned legs and post it on the social media saying “Bye bye, Dubrovnik, you were good! See you soon!”, insert hashtag Dubrovnik and you get free marketing. If you take into account that every passenger has around 400 friends on Facebook / Instagram / Snapchat, let’s just multiply a number of passengers with this number. Sounds a lot, right? Exactly, don’t waste all your money on tourism fairs for promotion, while you’re wasting this marketing potential at the same time.

Just my two cents…

So I checked in and headed to my departure gate: everything went smoothly mostly because people working at the airport are very nice. An interesting fact for the non-locals: people working at Dubrovnik Airport are usually people from the Konavle region and they tend to be very nice and relaxed there, not like the hectic and super busy people from the center of Dubrovnik when the summer season hits high gear. Well, they are nice when they are around, but what happens when they are not…

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My flight at 12:55 p.m. was delayed, but the passengers were just notified about that at 12:50 p.m. when they grew nervous and started wandering around to get some information. Not a single member of staff around and no screens working. (You might work on that.)

Dubrovnik Airport and Zagreb airport both opened new terminals so there might occur some problems with the management. However, passengers are able to understand all problems if appropriately notified about it. But this time, we waited for 20 minutes without being told a single word, at least in the Croatian language so we, the local passengers, could translate it to the confused tourists. At 1:05 p.m. we were finally told that our flight was delayed and that we will be notified about the new departure time in 15 minutes. Screens suddenly showed the departure destination.

Back to the seats and waiting. :/

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At 1:24 p.m. they announced boarding. “We wish you a pleasant flight!” without apologizing at all for this inconvenient situation.

Tip: You always have to genuinely apologize to customers when things get wrong. Sometimes even twice.

The woman in front of me asked the staff what was the problem, they answered: Technical problems. No one likes to hear that, Kolinda get those new planes!

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On the Croatia Airlines plane we were served with one glass of Jana water. This is also to some extent reasonable as it is just a 40 minute flight. But one passenger next to me wanted to purchase something from the Sky Shop for 30 Croatian kuna. The stewardess told him that is not possible if he does not have the exact change because they were cashless (I remember this happening a few times before). He didn’t have and guess what, he couldn’t buy something to eat. Stay hungry, stay foolish, Croatia Airlines.

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Tip: Always have some cash on the plane, do not lose a single opportunity to sell something, otherwise brands would not be interested in buying ads in the Sky Shop magazine.

But one thing I need to particularly compliment. As I live in Dubrovnik, I often take planes to Zagreb and one thing I always look forward is reading Croatia Airlines magazine. Beautiful photos, professionally written texts, excellent graphic design and after all a great source of information. Kudos to the editor-in-chief Ksenija Žlof and her team (Ana Ćulumović Šoštarić, Davor Janušić, Anamarija Jurinjak, Natalija Osvald, Zlata Prpić, Ivana Ivanković, Nenad Vujošević, Mirjana Miholek and Boris Kolka), you’re doing a great job!

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Landed in (finally!) sunny Zagreb with a one hour delay, but I told myself I won’t be bothered by it. Zagreb Airport struck me with its beauty, but as I was late I immediately headed to the Pleso bus station and hit the road.

The parking and the surrounding area in front of Zagreb Airport, popularly known as DFT 😀 offered a lot of space and a feeling that I really arrived in the capital of Croatia. (The previous airport did not provide me with such a nice welcome, and I felt as if I have arrived to donate aid to Croatia.)

After 2 days, plenty of food and uncountable glasses of the drinks not served for kids, I headed again to take another flight, this time from Zagreb to Dubrovnik. Arriving by bus to Zagreb Airport will offer you a full uninterrupted panorama of the airport and will leave you speechless. My national pride started to grow and I was very happy to see that this long-awaited project has finally come to life.

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The new terminal covers 65,000 square meters on four floors and has a distinctive wavy roof and 30 check-in counters, eight jet-bridges and three aprons for smaller aircraft, a luggage sorting facility, many catering outlets and shops, more than a thousand parking spaces, spaces for prayer and care of infants… Its capacity is five million passengers a year in the first phase, with the possibility of increasing the number to eight million. The staff at the airport is very nice and well organized, and I overheard some staff discussing new positions and they seemed very enthusiastic about the new management.

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How does the airport look? I could go on and on about the beauty of the architecture and the interior design, but I will let photos speak volumes… It was designed by Croatian architects Branko Kincl and Velimir Neidhardt and constructor Jure Radić.

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In a nutshell, both airports finally deserve the adjective “international”, and according to the number of passengers who were taking photos of the new airports, it is easy to see that you left us all very impressed!

There are a few little details that need to be taken care of, but with the right management board and enthusiastic and proud staff, it seems this will be a piece of cake!

Congratulations everyone and I hope we’re ready for the upcoming summer season that is predicted to break records! Bravo!

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