Brač Airport Expansion Draws TUI and Eurowings

Total Croatia News

Manager, pilot, airline expert: these are the words to describe Tonći Peović, director of Brač Airport and a well known person in the airline sector in Croatia and beyond

Tonći Peović, director of Brač Airport, talked to us from snow covered Brač island, discovering details on the runway extension, current achievements and future plans for the airport, published on January 17, 2017.

Brač Airport is under reconstruction, an extension of the runway which will enable larger airplanes to use the airport?
“We’re in the middle of it. We still have to paint the markings, add illumination and other details so I expect the job will be finished by Easter, including certification. I think it is key to state that our management plan considers the airport was built to accommodate the types of aircraft that were in the fleet of regional airlines at the time, mostly Croatia Airlines (CA) with ATR 42 and Adria Airways with DASH 7, 1.440 metres was sufficient for them. At the time CA had 10-12 flights weekly from Zagreb and other destinations. However, with the privatisation of Zlatni Rat, there was a change in the ownership structure of the BlueSun corporation and there was no adjustment to the types of aircraft that operate today. A joint analysis with the majority owner pointed to the need to extend the runway to the length that would allow aircraft up to 80 seats, meaning DASH 8 Q400 and ATR 72. After the upgrades in CA, we often had situations where we couldn’t load all luggage at high temperatures in the summer as the runway wasn’t enough even for the turbo prop fleet, not to even mention jet planes. Jets are preferred by tour operators who want to fly to Brač as the capacity of a jet plane enables coverage of the entire Europe, beyond the reach of turbo props.”

“In that sense we created a strategic plan which defines necessary and urgent extension of the runway where possible, with the goal of encompassing the requirements of most jet planes as well as delimiting turbo props. We moved southward, which was unusual as all plans focused on an extension north. But since in the north the property claims were not settled, a time consuming activity, and the terrain configuration was unfavourable, it was decided to move 320 metres south and enter the 1.800 metres category and remain at 30 metres of width, satisfying het requirements up to Airbus A319, around 150 seats, enabling us to achieve our strategic goal of adapting to as many aircraft. Naturally, this requires moving access lights etc. which will be solved during the year.”

What are your achievements in 2016 and are you satisfied with them?
“It is interesting, when looking at numbers and statistics, there is often a strange image so we can say we made a 40%increase compared to 2015, which is a large number, but in absolute numbers, the increase was from 10.000 to 14.500 passengers – small numbers, but a large percentage. We must point out our capacity is much larger than the current turnover.”

“In the best years, Brač Airport had 34.000 passengers with steady growth and if we had continued, we would be at around 80.000 passengers annually. Unfortunately, due to the failure of adjusting the infrastructure to the needs of the customers, there was a decline in traffic. With better marketing and a new CA line from Zagreb and lines to Italy, we made that move forward and with the arrival of jet aircraft this year, I believe we will remain in the same percentage, meaning another 40% increase and absolute numbers around 20-25 thousand passengers, which would enable us to cover our expenses already in the next year.”

We’ve had many questions from our readers for 2017. The Balkan Express agency from Italy is promoting some lines to Brač. Do you have specific data or are negotiations still ongoing?
“With Balkan Express we began to cooperate last year when they began flights from Italy with an ATR 72 of Mistral Air hired by the Poste Italiane company. It’s an aircraft that can be converted to either cargo or passenger service. Since the end of July to the beginning of September they connected Brač with two destinations in Italy, but this year they have begun selling five destinations. I think they will have to wait and see how sales are going. This increase is welcome, while the carrier expressed his opinion last year that this is a good product they will continue to sell. In any case, such a turbo prop with 70 seats and small consumption is very acceptable and I expect we will have signed agency contracts in February when the number of destinations will be defined. I am certain it will not be smaller than last year’s when we were connected to Bari and Naples. I expect five destinations and will the operation period be extended beyond August, I don’t know. In any case, I am satisfied sales are progressing.”

TUIfly is coming to Brač. Many are interested which type of aircraft they will use?
“TUI corporation does business on Brač and one of their divisions, as they call them, has shown strong interest, followed by a visit of their management to Brač due to very respectable conditions, and since Split Airport is under capacity, they were considering direct flights to middle Dalmatian islands, primarily Hvar and Brač, not via Split since Split provides slots which do not fit TUI. We made an agreement and viewed the fleet of TUI: there are several types of aircraft which will be able to land on Brač this year and they suggested Embraer 190. However, I must state the negotiations between corporations TUI and BlueSun are still in progress, which is why the meeting in Amsterdam was crucial in agreeing on joint preparation of infrastructure of Brač Airport to receive the types of aircraft preferred by TUI. This is a strong move by TUI in bringing guests to middle Dalmatian islands, for a better position in the Croatian market compared to those that are lost: Algiers, Turkey, Egypt etc. For these intense negotiations, we are already preparing documentation for the second phase of runway extension north to a total of 2.350 metres which will enable their Boeing 737 aircraft unlimited operation to Brač. I am optimistic the second phase will be complete in June of 2018. We’ve arranged everything with their safety department. This creates a partner relationship of TUI and BlueSun which is the majority owner of Brač Airport.”

“In that sense two destinations were announced this year: Brussels and Deauville in France with the Embraer 190 aircraft with 112 seats. Flights will begin in early May until the end of October,on Tuesdays.”

“I must add EuroWings has shown interest in Brač for this year, but since we will only have our certificate around Easter, they couldn’t announce flights for the season so I believe we will negotiate with them for next year. So for next year, along with Croatia Airlines, we expect TUI, Mistral Air (Balkan Express) and Gruber which used last year Czech Airlines ATR 72, while this year they might use an Airbus A319. Also, we have been neogtiating with Air Serbia for a few years, whose director I met recently. They also have an interest to fly to Brač. They want to combine it with Zadar and is high on their list of priorities to create a line to Belgrade with an ATR 72.”

Something in the end?
“I always like to point something out: Brač is larger by 70 square kilometres than Malta. So we are talking about huge potential and capacity, it’s only a question of how economy and local administration will allow growth. Not to mention Hvar which is 15 minutes away from us. We strive to provide a service where each guests receives their luggage in their room, as well as their boarding pass. In cooperation with other subjects, we are working on raising the service level compared to other destinations. We can do so as our owner is a hotel owner, while others are in that sense in a less favourable position.”


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