Could Croatia Airlines End Up in Proverbial Aegean Airlines Basket?

Lauren Simmonds

Updated on:

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes, the very well known Greek company Aegean Airlines announced this week that it is interested in taking over several carriers in Southeastern Europe, including Croatia Airlines.

As reported by Exyuaviation, the Vice President of Aegean Airlines, Eftychios Vassilakis, said that on a broader plan, the Greek carrier intends to strengthen its regional role in Southeastern Europe through possible new acquisitions.

This airline bought a 51% stake in Romania’s Animawings last October, and it is firmly on track to break even in 2022 and is operationally expected to experience a full recovery from the coronavirus pandemic with a record summer season under its belt. Aegean’s further interest could potentially lead to a strategic partnership between the two Star Alliance members. Just before the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic, Aegean confirmed that it had indeed submitted a non-binding offer to buy the Croatian national carrier Croatia Airlines.

The next phase was supposed to include direct talks between the Greek airline and the Croatian Government. However, the process was halted in March 2020 as the global health crisis hit the aviation and tourism sectors hard.

Back in September last year, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic mentioned that the negotiations between the two carriers regarding the strategic partnership agreement would definitely be renewed, but that has yet to happen. Aegean Airlines also participated in the previous attempt to privatise Croatia Airlines back in 2015.

There are some similarities between the two carriers

The Greek company entered into the second round of negotiations with the then privatisation advisor, International Finance Corporation, but the privatisation project was interrupted by the change of government here in Croatia. As an airline registered in the European Union (EU), Aegean can buy a majority stake in the Croatian counterpart without an issue.

The two carriers share a similar fleet structure, with both Airbus A320 family aircraft and Dash 8 turboprop aircraft being used. Furthermore, both operate in similar and competitive seasonal (summer) environments.

The similarities mostly end there. Aegean was continuously profitable from 2013 until the COVID-19 crisis, recording a record profit of 79.5 million euros back in 2019. It employed around 2,900 people, carried 15 million passengers and recorded an average cabin load factor of 84.8 percent across its fleet of 64 aircraft.

On the other hand, Croatia Airlines has, as previously mentioned, in troubled waters for a long time and with a poor track record among its users who often complain of poor service and extortionate prices. It also recorded a loss of over ten million euros in the ”record year” of 2019, had a mere 1,000 employees, transported a much smaller number of 2.1 million passengers in 12 aircraft with an average annual occupancy rate of 73.6 percent.

With the strengthening of the Irish carrier Ryanair in Croatia, especially at Zagreb Airport, things will likely continue to get even worse for Croatia Airlines until something very drastic alters, and quickly.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.


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