PULA, May 29, 2021 – The first airliner of the new Croatian airline ETF Airways, the 189-seat Boeing 737-800, was presented to the public at Pula Airport on Saturday, May 29. The second plane of the same configuration is expected to arrive in early June, the airline said.
ETF Airways will operate two aircraft this season, but negotiations are underway to acquire a third in 2022. The airline plans to expand its fleet to seven aircraft by 2025.
“The market recovered rapidly after the pandemic subsided in the spring,” said Stjepan Bedić, CEO of ETF Airways. “The demand for our services outside of Croatia has increased beyond expectations. We were even a little surprised, but we have a great team that rose to the challenge and prepared the company for its first season of operation with two Boeing airliners. This is the first time in the past three decades that a Boeing aircraft has entered the regional market, ”says Bedić.
ETF Airways is managed by three experienced experts who are also members of its board of directors: Stjepan Bedić, Marko Banković and Dragan Stefanovski. The company’s main investors and members of its supervisory board are renowned long-time financial experts Ratko Bajakić and Zdenko Adrović. Renowned economist Velimir Šonje is the vice-chairman of the supervisory board and also an investor.
Ratko Bajakić, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, said that last year’s disruption in the air transport market created new opportunities, which enabled him to support ETF Airways with capital from its ICF: “The Civil aviation is a very capital intensive business and, in normal times, entering such a competitive market is not easy. However, rental terms for large airliners suddenly relaxed after most of the global fleet came to a standstill. We have managed to negotiate very good rental conditions, which is a springboard for further business expansion. We believe we have the best leadership and dedicated and motivated employees who, backed by investors, will carry out the company’s ambitious business plan.
ETF Airways will not be a scheduled carrier. Its business is geared towards charter flights and crewed rental contracts (providing flights for other businesses): “Small businesses find it almost impossible to compete with giants like Ryanair or Lufthansa,” said the board member of administration Marko Banković. “But the market has many niches, some related to tourism, with plenty of room for businesses like ours.”
The company has already signed its first permanent contract – connecting EU destinations with non-EU countries in southeastern Europe. The fact that ETF Airways has started operations outside Croatia does not mean that it will not become an important air link for Croatia.
“The world is big, but first and foremost we are a Croatian company,” said Velimir Šonje. “Naturally, the pandemic and the focus on tourists driving vehicles have hampered investment in developing air links with more distant tourist markets such as Northern Europe, Russia or Israel. But charter planes are irreplaceable as highways, and we are confident that new markets and new air routes for higher purchasing power passengers will continue to open up in the years to come. They can extend the tourist season and thus strengthen tourism in Croatia. We are a natural partner for large tour operators, hotel owners and destinations with advanced tourism development strategies. That is why I am sure that in the years to come we will open up new markets and together create new values, thus contributing to the development of Croatian tourism towards a tourism industry with higher added value. We are ready, ”Šonje said.