In August 1989, Croatia Airlines, the first Croatian air carrier, was registered under the name Zagal – actually Zagreb Airlines. Zagal began operations, cargo services for UPS, with a Cessna 402 aircraft.
In July 1990, following the first democratic elections in Croatia, Zagal changed its name to Croatia Airlines. Croatia Airlines is the state-owned flag carrier of Croatia, with headquarters in Buzin, near Zagreb. The airline operates domestic and international services, mainly to European destinations, from its main hub at Zagreb International Airport, with Dubrovnik, Split, and Zadar as focus cities.
In 1991, in order to commence domestic services, Croatia Airlines signed a leasing agreement with Adria Airways for a McDonnell Douglas MD-82 aircraft. On May 5, Croatia Airlines operated its first passenger flight Zagreb-Split.
In 1992, Croatia Airlines was forced to suspend operations due to the Croatian War of Independence and the closure of the airspace over Croatia. The interruption was short and, as soon as flights restarted, the airline acquired three Boeing 737s from Lufthansa and opened its first international route to Frankfurt. Croatia Airlines also became a member of IATA.
In 1993, Croatia Airlines expanded its fleet with the acquisition of two ATR-42 aircraft and two Boeing 737 aircraft and bought the Obzor travel agency.
In September 1994, Croatia Airlines carried Pope John Paul II from Rome to Zagreb. Pope John Paul II flew with Croatia Airlines for the second time in 1998 and third time in 2003.
In 1995, the airline acquired another ATR-42 aircraft and started a Frequent Flyer Programme, thus offering special advantages to passengers frequently flying with Croatia Airlines.
In November 1996, a Croatia Airlines office was opened in Sarajevo, and the airline became the first European and world airline company to establish regular civil air traffic for this city after the Bosnian War.
In 1997, Croatia Airlines took delivery of the first Airbus A320 aircraft. In 1998, another type of plane, the airline’s first Airbus A319, joined the fleet, and Croatia Airlines became a member of the AEA (Association of European Airlines). By 1999, the fleet was completed by Airbus aircraft, with the parallel sale of the Boeing 737 aircraft.
In 2000, for the first time, Croatia Airlines carried more than 1,000,000 passengers in one single year.
In 2004, Croatia Airlines officially became a member of Star Alliance, as one if the first three regional members. An Airbus A319 was painted in the Star Alliance livery, and the Star Alliance symbols have been put on all the aircraft in the airline’s fleet.
In 2005, Croatia Airlines renewed its IOSA certificate after successfully passing the very demanding IATA Operational Safety Audit.
In 2008, Croatia Airlines began the renewal of its short-haul fleet. The airline received two Dash 8-Q400 aircraft, the first in May and the second in August. Two more Dash 8-Q400 aircraft joined the fleet in June 2009, replacing all three retired ATR-42 aircraft.
In 2012, with the aim of making flying more comfortable for its passengers, Croatia Airlines refitted the cabins of its Airbus 319s with new, high-quality leather Recaro seats.
In December 2013, Croatia Airlines began codeshare cooperation in passenger traffic with United Airlines, one of the world’s leading airlines.
In the summer timetable 2015, Croatia Airlines operates almost 100 flights per day with a modern fleet comprising two A320, four A319 and six Dash 8-Q400 and connects Croatia with 30 destinations in 18 European countries.
In 2016, for the first time in its history, Croatia Airlines expanded its European network within a single season by 4 new destinations, Prague, Milan, Lisbon, and St. Petersburg. Also, the airline ranked 8th in the world in fulfilling passenger rights, according to the research conducted by Air Help, a company specialized in evaluating the quality of civil air transport.
In July 2017, Croatia Airlines introduced FlyEasy, a new fare family that offers passengers flying with only hand luggage the opportunity to fly cheaper.
In 2017, for the second year in a row, four new international destinations, Bucharest, Helsinki, Oslo, and Stockholm, were introduced. Also, the airline transported, for the first time in its history, the two-millionth passenger within a single year.
In 2018, Croatia Airlines continued to expand its route network for the third consecutive year with three new routes, Zagreb – Dublin, Dubrovnik – Munich, and Split – Copenhagen, while the number of weekly flights on existing routes increased. Consequently, the airline will supplement the existing fleet of 12 aircraft by leasing for the upcoming tourist season two Air Nostrum Bombardier CRJ 1000 aircraft.
No fatal accidents involving Croatia Airlines were registered so far. In September 2013, a Croatia Airlines Dash 8-Q400 aircraft had to perform the landing at Zurich with the nose gear in the retracted position, but none of the 60 passengers and 4 crew members were injured.