Zagreb Airport first issued a statement that it was operational for the whole night, but later admitted “ambiguities”.
As reported earlier, a Croatia Airlines aircraft on the Zagreb-Dubrovnik service could not land at Dubrovnik Airport due to high winds and had to fly to Rome instead of returning to Zagreb as requested because Zagreb Airport informed Croatia Airlines that it did not have enough staff to accept it. On Monday, the airport management issued two contradictory statements, before finally admitting that ambiguous procedures were to blame for the incident, reports Večernji List on June 20, 2017.
”The Croatia Airlines aircraft could have returned to Zagreb Airport which was operational at the time”, said the airport management in its first statement issued at around noon on Monday. It continued by saying that the airport operations centre did not receive an official request to accept the aircraft on Friday night. They added that they were asked informally whether the plane could return to Zagreb and that they replied that it was possible and that the number of staff was sufficient. The Croatia Airlines duty officer allegedly responded that he would get back to them if necessary, but that the aircraft would more likely be diverted to Rome anyway. The Airport also claimed that they had the required RFF 6 fire-fighting category for receiving the Airbus aircraft at the time.
However, later in the day, the Airport issued a new statement, after a meeting with the Croatia Airlines representatives, in which they admitted that their initial statement had relied on available information, but did not fully correspond with the facts.
In the second statement, Zagreb Airport stated that the whole incident was the result of extraordinary circumstances caused by high winds in the area of Dubrovnik, conditions that were not expected in the weather report. That caused the aircraft to be kept in the area around Dubrovnik and required fast decision-making by all involved operatives.
“The existing procedure for using Zagreb Airport in the period after 22:00 was interpreted ambiguously which, given the short time available for decision making, resulted in inadequate communication by the operational staff. In order to avoid similar situations in the future, the Airport will amend the procedure which will unambiguously confirm airport’s openness 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and submit the modified procedure to Croatia Airlines as soon as possible,” admitted the Airport last night.
According to unofficial information, the captain of the flight contacted the Croatia Airlines operational centre and asked if the plane could return to Zagreb. Initially, the airport replied negatively. But, after 20 minutes, they came back and said the plane could return, but it was too late because the aircraft was already on its way to Rome and there was not enough fuel to go back to Zagreb.
Minister of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure Oleg Butković said that the Civil Aviation Agency had a deadline (until Wednesday) to determine what happened and why the Croatia Airlines flight to Dubrovnik landed in Rome instead.
“I expect a response from the Agency because it is the only body that can provide one, and then I expect sanctions on whoever is responsible,” said Butković on Monday evening. “A Minister is not the one who investigates or issues penalties; that is done by an independent regulatory body – the Civil Aviation Agency,” concluded Butković.