Pula Airport Desires American Visitors, Eyes Infrastructure Changes

Lauren Simmonds

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April the 12th, 2023 – Pula Airport has a strong desire to attract more visitors from North America, as more and more people from that part of the world flock to Croatia. This is especially the case for US citizens, who are appearing more and more frequently in Croatia, especially along the coast, for various reasons and not only for tourism.

As Darko Bicak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, as stated above, the general level of interest of travellers from the North American continent to the Republic of Croatia, especially to the Adriatic coast, whether it be for tourist or personal and family reasons, has never been in question. The abolition of American visas for Croatian citizens has also only further increased the interest of Croats in making trips the other way across the pond.

Air carriers have also recognised this trend, and it is increasingly likely that in the coming period, this country will be much more connected to North America, meaning by more than the existing two seasonal routes. In addition to the airports in Zagreb and Dubrovnik, in the foreseeable future it will likely be possible to see a connection between North America (including Canada) and Pula Airport.

New York and Toronto

As its chief director Nina Vojnic Zagar confirmed last week, Pula Airport recently ordered a study as it eyes up expansion, that is, moving the threshold of the runway.

“Pula Airport is considering extending its runway in order to be able to operate long-haul flights, with a focus on transatlantic services. This means that we’re investigating the possibility of extending the runway to 3,200 metres to accommodate long-haul flights, i.e. flights to the east coast of North America. The current runway is 2954 metres long and lacks another 250 metres for this purpose. We have space both to the east and to the west to extend the runway, but we have to take the slopes into account,” said Vojnic Zagar for local portal Glas Istre/The Voice of Istria.

She added that it will certainly not be a project that will be realised this year, but that the first steps have now been taken to make it happen as soon as is realistically possible. According to her, passengers from Pula are already well connected to the North American continent through various other European hubs, including Frankfurt, Munich, London Heathrow and Belgrade.

That said, she admits that current flight schedules are not ideal for transfer passengers as most airlines target point-to-point passengers on flights to Pula Airport. Based on indirect traffic flows to and from North America, Pula Airport records the most passengers to New York, followed by those coming from the Canadian city of Toronto.

Air Transat “operates” between Toronto and Zagreb Airport with its Airbus A330-200 aircraft, after restoring traffic between the two cities last year after a two-year break due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Canadian airline served 21,597 passengers between the two cities during its six months of operations last year. On the other hand, United Airlines connects its New York Newark airport hub with Dubrovnik Airport (Cilipi) using Boeing 767-300 aircraft along that route. Last year, it carried 28,445 passengers on this route between the two cities during its four-month operational period.

Split isn’t remotely interesting

Back in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, Air Transat planned to start a weekly seasonal summer service between Toronto and Split, but ticket sales were suspended several months before the launch for “commercial reasons”. Split Airport previously announced that it was simply not interested in accommodating or dealing with long-haul flights.

The reason for this is, of course, that these long-haul flights with wide-body aircraft would mostly be performed on weekends, most often on Saturdays, when Split is the most crowded. As intercontinental wide-bodied aircraft take up much more space and need a larger maneuvering area, the operations of smaller aircraft that form the air traffic base in Split would suffer because of them, and it is precisely on them that Split Airport relies.

Before the coronavirus crisis, there were announcements circulating around about connecting Zadar with several Chinese destinations, but after the end of the pandemic, there is no more speculation about such an idea, at least for now.

For more, check out our dedicated news and travel sections.


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