Split airport is opposed to the recently floated idea of merging six state-owned Croatian airports and Croatia Airlines (OU, Zagreb) under one holding to make the flag carrier more attractive to private investors, EX-YU Aviation has reported citing General Manager Lukša Novak.

"Investing in an airline would be too risky. It is not in line with aviation trends in the past forty years and it is questionable whether such action is consistent with European Union regulations," Novak said.

While no formal decision has been made so far, privatisation advisers recommended the creation of a holding consisting of airports and the airline as one of the three possible paths for Croatia Airlines. Another scenario is also based on such a holding but foresees selling it to pension funds rather than seeking another investor.

Novak said that such a scenario would de facto amount to profitable airports subsidising the loss-making flag carrier.

In 2018, Croatia Airlines lost HKR82.9 million kunas (USD12.3 million) while the six airports proposed to be included in the holding (Split, Dubrovnik, Zadar, Pula, Rijeka, and Osijek) have earned HRK212.8 million kunas (USD31.4 million) between them. Only Osijek is loss-making while the other five airports are sustainably profitable.

Novak underlined that Croatian airports already support the ailing flag carrier, for example by favourable terms during the low season.

The final plan for the privatisation of Croatia Airlines will be drawn up by the end of the year. The government, which currently wholly-owns the carrier, eyes to divest a 70% stake.