The middle of March would normally see the early openings of the tourist season in Dubrovnik with the gateway, the southernmost airport in Croatia, awakening from its winter slumber. Every March for decades this tradition has continued with the normal tourist season fully opening in Easter. However, this clearly isn’t a normal March, it isn’t going to be a normal year at all.
And tourism and travel is certainly at the sharp end of the coronavirus pandemic. With countries closing their borders, tomorrow Slovenia will stop all international flights, aiming to slow down the spread of coronavirus so airlines have seen themselves in the front line. Almost all the international airlines that fly from Dubrovnik, and would at this time of the year normally be preparing for their first flights of the year, have postponed. Even the national flagship airline, Croatia Airlines, has stopped all international flights that they operate with Dubrovnik.
The low-cost airlines, Ryanair and EasyJet, have grounded the vast majority of their fleets. The transatlantic airlines have followed suit, with Virgin asking staff to take eight weeks’ unpaid leave and Norwegian Air has cancelled thousands of flights and laid off 7,500 workers. The largest travel company in the world, TUI, have stated that they will “suspend the majority” of their operations. One of the few international airlines that still operate to Dubrovnik, British Airways, are also cutting 75 percent of capacity.
Dubrovnik Airport facing a challenging year - Photo Mark Thomas
And British Airways was indeed the only international airline to bring passengers to the city today. The plane from London was due to land at 10.15 but actually arrived 20 minutes earlier, possibly due to the empty skies and runways. According to Dubrovnik Airport the BA2680 flight from London has only 26 passengers on board and all passengers were checked by border inspectors.
The London flight wasn’t the only international flight, although it was the only one with passengers on board, as two charter flights from Freebird Airlines Europe also landed at the airport but according to reports in local media without any passengers on board. In fact, these charter flight only had departing passengers. A further Freebird flight was cancelled.
In the next three days, Dubrovnik Airport expects even less traffic, so tomorrow, apart from Croatia Airlines and Trade Air, which will fly domestic destinations only Aegean Airlines will fly to Athens. With four other international flights cancelled.
And on Wednesday, at least according the the airport's website, it is sadly a similar situation and only British Airways flying to London after Turkish Airlines cancelling their planned morning flight to Istanbul operating on international routes.
Important Croatia travel advice can be found here
TUI - Coronavirus Information