Zadar Airport Celebrates 50 Years!

Daniela Rogulj

Although aviation in Zadar has far older roots that date back to the beginning of the 20th century, on April 19, 1969, exactly 50 years ago, the newly built Zadar Airport officially opened, reports AvioRadar on April 19, 2019. 

The opening was attended by several thousand Zadar citizens and inhabitants of Zadar County, as well as many prominent guests from the political and public life of Zadar and the state. 

“After the Adriatic Highway, the ferry connection with Italy, and the railway, we have an airport as the crown of everything. And this is a world-class airport, one of the most functional airports in the country with two tracks for takeoffs and landings regardless of the direction and strength of the wind,” the media wrote then.

Otherwise, the company “Zadar Airport” was established exactly two years earlier, on April 19, 1967, by the Resolution on Foundation adopted by the then Municipal Assembly of Zadar. The first director was Drago Strenja. 

During its first season, there were 15,508 passengers. One year later, there was a growth of 206%, and after 1972, passenger traffic was over 100,000, which was maintained until 1990. The airport’s record was 146,129 passengers in 1976, which was broken in 2008 thanks to the arrival of low-cost carrier Ryanair. 

In the 1990s, heavy days hit Croatia and also Zadar Airport, which was destroyed, robbed, and devastated. Operation Maslenica in 1993 freed the airport and restorations began slowly after by the then employees. 

Thanks to the arrival of low-cost carriers, primarily Ryanair, Zadar Airport has increased traffic tenfold. In 2018, 604,000 passengers traveled through the airport, which is four times more than the best period before the war, and 40 times more than the first season in 1969. With 700,000 passengers and a record number of airline operators and flights, 2019 will be the busiest in history. 

As one of the most important infrastructural facilities, Zadar Airport is an essential factor in connecting Northern Dalmatia and Lika with other parts of Croatia and the world. For half a century, it has contributed to the development of tourism and the general economy of the Zadar County, and continuously, year after year, achieves better results. With its location, above-average daily flights, traffic connections to the A1 and Port Gaženica, and proximity to the city centre (10 km), Zadar Airport has become an inevitable departure and arrival point of numerous guests from all over Europe and the world who have recognized Zadar and Zadar County as an attractive tourist destination. 

“Being part of the first 50 years is an extraordinary honor. The achievements of Zadar Airport are enchanting, the accomplishments of the people of Zadar Airport during the first 50 years are precious to every admiration, especially considering that today’s Zadar Airport was literally raised from the ashes after the Homeland War.

On April 19, 1969, it was opened as the then Aerodrome Zadar. And in the first year, in 1969, a modest 15,508 passengers passed through the airport – and we finished last year with 604,039 passengers. Expectations for this year are over 750,000 passengers. That is the best way to continue the effort of all employees, both former and present, and participate in the creation of a better and richer Zadar and Croatia. We will continue to do so. Investments in the operational area of the airport and the plans to expand the passenger terminal building will provide an opportunity for the long-term growth of traffic that will stimulate further economic growth of Zadar. I believe in the future, I believe in success,” concluded Josip Klišmanić, Zadar Airport director. 

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