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Croatian charter airline ready to reconnect war-torn regional links

IGOR SALINGER / BELGRADE

Air Adriatic, a Croatian charter airline, which is backed by Scandinavian investors, is to begin operations in April using a six-strong fleet of Boeing MD-82s and Fokker 50s.

Croatia's air links were savaged during the Yugoslav civil war of the mid-1990s, leaving only a limited number of direct flights, mostly out of the capital Zagreb.

Air Adriatic is aiming to plug this gap, while taking advantage of the limited charter service Zagreb-based Croatia Airlines is planning to provide this summer following the postponement of the delivery of Airbus A319s.

The airline, headquartered in Rijeka with a technical base at Pula airport, will focus on flights connecting Croatia with Central Europe, Israel, Russia, Scandinavia and the UK. In the Balkans, Air Adriatic plans to connect Pula or Rijeka in Croatia with Belgrade and Pristina in Serbia.

It will use Fokker 50s for services to points along the Croatian coastline, from Istria in the north to Dubrovnik in the south, with possible stops at Zadar and Split.

Air Adriatic will operate three MD-82s and three Fokker 50s this year, and plans to add three more MD-80s in 2003.

Air Adriatic was registered in 1997 in Rijeka by a group of former Croatia Airlines pilots, but has had several false starts.

In January 2000, negotiations between the Croatian and Swiss governments over co-operation with Crossair failed.

Then it placed an order for two Fairchild Dornier 328JETs only to cancel the order when the main investor pulled out.

In August last year, it leased from Bulgarian Air Charters a 157-seat Tupolev Tu-154M, but returned it after apparently failing to secure the necessary operating certificates.

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