Franjo Tudman Airport’s visitor numbers have continued to increase throughout 2017-18. What is the reason behind this growth, and how does MZLZ plan to maintain it?

Jacques Feron: Croatia is steadily attracting more tourists, with Zagreb becoming an increasingly interesting travel destination. Zagreb is visited by more tourists every year, making it a popular city break and holiday destination, and this can be seen by the number of passengers at the airport.

In order to meet the demand, we work hard on adding new carriers to our portfolio, which have been the main drivers of our growth since 2014. This year will certainly be positive, as far as the number of passengers in Zagreb is concerned, and I hope that this upward trend will continue in the coming years.

At the end of October 2018, we recorded a 9% cumulative growth in passenger numbers compared with 2017, when we recorded over three million in total. We expect this trend to continue.

Since moving operations to the new passenger terminal, Franjo Tudman Airport has welcomed Emirates, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada Rouge and Korean Air. What other companies have expressed their desire to launch flights from Zagreb?

Emirates is one of the airline companies that arrived in Zagreb thanks to the new terminal building, as the old one did not meet its standards. The arrival of Emirates is important for Croatia because it is becoming an interesting hub that connects Europe with Asia and Australia. Additionally, the introduction of flights from Dubai to Zagreb was also important for Arab business people. Air Canada introduced a direct flight between Zagreb and Toronto, becoming the second airline to connect the two cities after Air Transat. In addition, Korean Air introduced direct flights between Zagreb and Seoul as of September this year.

We expect new carriers and new flights in 2019 will expand our network further, but we prefer the airlines to announce these operations. However, our route development department is keen to create business activities in Zagreb. It participates in five to six global aviation events and holds approximately 100 meetings every year.

How would you describe MZLZ’s first year of operations at the new passenger terminal?

We are satisfied. First of all, it should be remembered that such a large and demanding project is completed on time and within the limits of the planned budget without any major deviation, which is a great success. The hardest part of the job, not only in the past year but also throughout the project, was to harmonise and meet the expectations of all the stakeholders, as each had their own interests.

Franjo Tudman Airport is recording continuous increases in traffic and passenger numbers (cumulatively and monthly). Last year, we welcomed three million passengers for the first time in the airport’s history. In addition, 12 new airlines have been welcomed since the beginning of the concession period in December 2013. All of these developments give us the right to look very optimistically at the years ahead.

What exciting plans does MZLZ have on the horizon?

The first activities to increase the capacity of the airport were launched in spring 2018, with the addition of a carousel in the sorting area on the ground floor of the passenger terminal.

Over the next two years, 15 new passenger check-in counters will be installed on the second floor of the passenger terminal and the third explosive-detection system will be placed in the baggage handling area. With these investments, a capacity of five million passengers will be reached, in accordance with the concession agreement.

In addition, the construction of a car park for airport equipment is being planned – which will have a total area of around 6,000m2 – as well as a new building for car rental companies with 20 counters.

What feedback have passengers given to the airport, and are they satisfied with its services and representation of Croatia?

We collect traveller comments in a special book of reviews, and constantly analyse and address the visitor comments to work on our service. There is always room for improvement, and after the first year, we know where and what to improve; we are developing plans to fix the problems that guests complain about most. We are planning to take some steps to encourage passengers to circulate through the building, in order to offer more refreshment and shopping facilities. Our catering and retail partners plan to diversify their products and invest in new stores.

In the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) survey published by the Airport Council International (ACI) – the global association of airports – Franjo Tudman Airport was given the Best Improvement Award for 2017 in the category of European airports for two to five million passengers. Given the fact this survey, which assesses the quality of services provided by the airport, is carried out continuously, we are happy to realise that we are still achieving excellent results – even in 2018.

According to the latest report for the third quarter of 2018, Franjo Tudman Airport came out best in class across 11 categories specifically for all European airports with two to five million passengers. These categories included:

  • check-in efficiency
  • the feeling of being safe and secure
  • ease of making connections with other flights
  • cleanliness of airport terminal
  • overall arrival services.

Can you tell us more about what MZLZ is looking to improve?

Airport organisation is a very demanding and complex work that needs to be well prepared. We have good equipment, the organisation is well organised and we have invested a lot in training all staff to make the system work flawlessly.

After introducing new infrastructure a year and half ago, I can say that we have already entered a regular work rhythm. The most challenging period was the first two months following the opening on 28 March 2017 – the start of the tourist season that always boosts the number of passengers – where we were still trying to harmonise new equipment and work organisation.

But we’ve learned a lot since last year and we are continuously working on improving ourselves. We had a busy summer season and, based on the feedback we received, I believe we can now say that we provide services to airlines and passengers at significantly high levels. There is always room for improvement, but I would say that we are on the right track, and that we have managed to find a good balance between the expectations and quality of service we provide to all of our customers.