January 28, 2024 – The Public Service Obligation (PSO) flight from Zagreb to Osijek is unnecessary, hardly used, and expensive. Can we change it for a more practical route?
I have used Croatia public transport a LOT over the last 21 years, sometimes venturing into parts of the country on the bus where the wolves get romantic. In general, I find the public transport system to be pretty good – the bus much better than the train. There are exceptions, of course, such as the Erdut Express, the slowest passenger route in the entire EU in 2023, an incredible 70 minutes to cover 29.8 km at a blistering 25.54 km/h.
If you want to relive my Osijek to Erdut experience recently, be my guest in the video above.
Admittedly, my standards for contentment with public transport are low, probably due to my time in the Soviet Union, where I fondly remember turning up at Irkutsk Airport to find my plane delayed 5 DAYS, and I am still reliving every minute of the 56 hours on a train from St Petersburg to Crimea – in an era when such things were possible.
But some routes just don’t make sense, and one in particular – which I first came across because it is openly mocked in the aviation industry for its pointlessness – the PSO Zagreb to Osijek route which flies virtually empty twice a day, three times a week, at a cost to the taxpayer of 1.3 million euro a year in the last published figures.
And has done for seven years.
Average occupancy just 19.9%. And with the bus, train, car, and BlaBla car options, surely that money could be put to better use with a route to serve the people of Osijek and Slavonia better. An additional route to Split, perhaps? Or one to Dubrovnik? Just looking at the occupancy rates from the previous PSO round (the last publicly available information) would indicate that this would make some sense.
According to information supplied to me by an industry expert, the pre-pandemic average load factors and approximated subsidies (total divided by each rotation) were:
Pre-pandemic average annual load factor on PSO routes in Croatia (operated by a 19-seater aircraft)
Osijek – Zagreb 19.9%; subsidy roughly 600EUR/passenger (cca 4 passengers per flight)
Osijek – Rijeka 38.7EUR; subsidy roughly 250EUR/passenger
Rijeka – Split – Dubrovnik 65.5%; subsidy roughly 205EUR/passenger
Osijek – Pula – Split 72.6%; subsidy roughly 120EUR/passenger
Time for a rethink?