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Croatian Startup ETF Airways Connecting Croatia with the World

Croatian Startup ETF Airways Connecting Croatia with the World
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June 9, 2021 - Croatian startup ETF Airways is officially in business! The new charter carrier performed its first flight last week. 

Ex Yu Aviation reported on Tuesday that Croatian startup ETF Airways performed its first commercial flight from Pristina to Helsinki last Friday. 

Recall, the first passenger aircraft Boeing 737-800 with 189 seats of the new Croatian airline ETF Airways, was presented at the end of May at Pula Airport, reports HRTurizam

EFT Airways is a new airline in the Republic of Croatia founded in 2020 when the first permanent contract was signed to connect destinations in Southeast Europe with various destinations throughout the European Union, thus officially starting the business of the new Croatian airline. It is important to emphasize that this is a Croatian company.

ETF Airways is not a regular carrier, but its business is oriented towards charter flights and contracts for the lease of its own aircraft, i.e., providing flights to other companies. To enter the first season of operations, the company is launching two Boeing aircraft.

"The market recovered quickly after the pandemic receded in the spring," said ETF Airways CEO Stjepan Bedić, adding that demand for their services outside Croatia was growing above expectations. “We were even a little surprised, but we have a great team that coped with the challenge and prepared the company for the first operating season with two Boeing planes. This is the first time in the last three decades that a Boeing aircraft has entered the regional market," Bedić points out and emphasizes that this is the first time in the past thirty years that a Boeing has appeared on the regional market.

ETF Airways will operate two aircraft this season (the arrival of the second Boeing aircraft is expected in early June), and negotiations are already underway to purchase a third aircraft for 2022. Namely, the airline plans to expand its fleet to seven aircraft by 2025.

ETF Airways is run by three experienced experts who are also members of the board of directors: Stjepan Bedić, Marko Banković, and Dragan Stefanovski. The company's main investors and members are recognized long-term financial experts Ratko Bajakić and Zdenko Adrović. Velimir Šonje, a renowned economist, is the supervisory board's deputy chairman and investor.

Ratko Bajakić, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, said that last year's disturbance in the air market created some new opportunities for which he supported ETF Airways with the capital of his ICF: “Civil aviation is a very demanding job in terms of capital and, normally, entry to such a competitive market is not easy. However, the terms of the lease of large airlines suddenly relaxed after most of the global fleet was grounded. We managed to negotiate excellent leasing terms, which is a springboard for further business expansion. We believe that we have the best management, dedicated and motivated employees who, with the support of investors, will realize the company's ambitious business plan.“

It is almost impossible for smaller companies to compete with giants like Ryanair or Lufthansa, said board member Marko Bankovic, but stressed that the market has many niches related to tourism, with enough space for companies like theirs.

The company has already signed its first permanent contract - connecting EU destinations with non-EU Southeast European countries.

ETF Airways has started operating outside Croatia does not mean that it will not become an important air link for Croatia. "The world is big, but we are primarily a Croatian company," said Velimir Sonje, adding that it is understandable that the pandemic and the focus on car tourists have hampered investment in developing air connections with more distant markets that generate tourists, such as northern Europe, Russia or Israel. 

"Charter planes are irreplaceable as airways, and we are sure that new markets and air connections with passengers with greater purchasing power will open more and more in the coming years. Line charters can extend the tourist season and thus strengthen Croatian tourism. We are a natural partner to major tour operators, hotel owners, and destinations with advanced tourism development strategies. Therefore, in the coming years, I am sure that we will open new markets together and create new values, thus contributing to the evolution of Croatian tourism into a tourism industry with higher added value. We are ready," said Sonje.

In the future, ETF Airways plans to base its second aircraft in Dubrovnik and operate on charter routes from European destinations to Croatian airports, thus supporting the development of Croatian tourism.

Follow the latest on flights to Croatia HERE and the latest travel updates and COVID-19 news from Croatia HERE.

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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