ZADAR AIRPORT 50 years of connecting northern Dalmatia and Lika with Croatia and the world


Fifty years ago, when the new building of the Zadar Airpot was opened, a modern, functional building with many uses, it was difficult to imagine that it would nowadays be one of the fastest growing airports in Croatia after many financial, wartime and human resources issues.

Fifty years ago it was difficult to imagine and to expect that the original 15.5 thousand passengers would turn into over 600 thousand passengers in 2018.

In 2019, when the airport is celebrating this big anniversary, they are expecting over 700 thousand passengers as well as a record number of airlines and flights.

Growth is neither fast nor simple

This rise in business did not happen quickly or steadily, or even simply, especially if we take into account the fact that the airport was destroyed in the Homeland War in the 1990s and spent years without any traffic at all. Everything was very slow until 2007 when low-cost airlines appeared, primarily Ryanair.

Since then and since the airport was restored, traffic increased tenfold, and in 2018 there were four times as many passengers than in the best pre-war year, and forty times as many than in 1969. Traffic at the airport is on the rise each year along with investments in maintenance, modernization, digitalization, new facilities and content.

Throughout all this, as one of the most important infrastructural facilities in the region, the airport has kept its primary goal – to serve as an important and reliable connection between northern Dalmatia and Lika, and other parts of Croatia and the world.

Additionally, the airport contributes to the development of tourism and the economy of the Zadar County, but also the Šibenik-Knin and Lika-Senj Counties. It has, in recent years, become a central hub where numerous foreign tourists and business people from across Europe and the world arrive, and has created many opportunities for our people and tourists to visit foreign countries in a more affordable manner.

Lika is just around the corner

As far as Lika (both Plitvice and the entire Lika-Senj County) is concerned, Zadar Airport is the geographically closest airport, from which many travelers come to Lika to enjoy its hills, forests, mountaints, villages, fields and valley, and to visit popular destinations such as Plitvice or go down to the coast to Senj, Karlobag, Novalja and more.

Either immediately or in a matter of days after arriving to the Zadar Airport, some visitors will definitely go for a trip to the magical nature of Lika or for a dose of entertainment on an island. Even though it isn’t possible to precisely determine how many of the people arriving to the airport visit Lika, the director of the Zadar Airport, Josip Klišmanić, says that experience shows that a number of travelers don’t stay in accommodation in the Zadar County, but in neighbouring counties instead, including Lika-Senj.

„The airport does not keep official records of what the passengers’ final destinations are, but we believe that they go all around, especially because the airport is located close to the A1 highway, and we are well-connected to the rest of the Adriatic, as well as Lika and inland Croatia“ – says Klišmanić.

He also emphasizes that the airport is open to cooperation with everyone, stating that they already have a very developed partnership with the Croatian National Tourist Board, the Tourist Board of the Zadar County, as well as tourist boards of various municipalities and cities within the county, particularly when it comes to joint advertising projects.

Currently, the most extensive partnership in that regard is with Ryanair, and financing in the last two years has been fully handled by the Croatian National Tourist Boards in collaboration with local tourist boards. We are also developing cooperations with other low-cost airlines such as Eurowings and easyJet.“

The power of Ryanair

Ryanair has been with Zadar Airport for twelve years now, and this strong partnership continues this year as well.

„Ryanair has recently celebrated 4 million users at the Zadar Airport since their arrival in 2006. This year we’re breaking new grounds with flight schedules including new destinations such as Berlin, Köln, Dublin, Krakow and Prague. They are our most significant partner in increasing the passenger count to over 700 thousand this year, and we believe that our partnership will bring even more people in the future“ – announced Klišmanić.

The airport’s statistics highlight this fact that they are on the right track. The summer of 2019 flight schedule which started in April shows a high increase in traffic. May 2019 shows 35% more passengers and 100 more airplanes than May 2018. Zadar Airport has started this summer season with four new active airlines and fifteen new connections, with numerous charter companies added into the mix.

The airport has also recently received the Croatian Financial Agency’s „2018 golden balance sheet award in the fields of traffic and warehousing“ based on eleven financial indicators over five categories, as well as indicators of profitability, liquidity, indebtedness, activity and cost-effectiveness.

By: Tatjana Miščančuk for The Plitvice Times

PHOTO: Zadar Airport

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