A Croatia Airlines Dash 8 Q400 returned to Zagreb Airport, but a replacement aircraft was readily available.
On Monday 11th October, a Croatia Airlines Dash 8 Q400 aircraft had to return to Franjo Tuđman Airport Zagreb (ZAG) due to a cabin pressurization issue. The aircraft in question bears the registration 9A-CQA and was flying the evening rotation from Zagreb to Munich Airport (MUC) under flight number OU436.
The crew stopped climbing at FL140 when the pressurization issue became evident and returned the aircraft to Zagreb 34 minutes after take-off. Incidents with Croatia Airlines are rare: in over 30 years of flying, the Croatian flag carrier has had no crashes or fatal incidents.
Shortly after their return to Zagreb, passengers on plane OU436 were put on a replacement aircraft that Croatia Airlines had available since it entered the post-peak season phase of its annual fleet utilization program.
From early October, Croatia Airlines has spare capacity most days of the week for at least half of the day. This includes both its Dash 8 Q400 fleet and its Airbus A320 family fleet.
The replacement aircraft, carrying the registration 9A-CQE took off from Zagreb Airport at 20:41, coming at Munich Airport some 120 minutes behind schedule. It operated the return flight with a smaller delay, returning to Zagreb from Munich with a delay of just 80 minutes.
This reduction in delay was achieved thanks to the long turnover time that Croatia Airlines always has on its evening rotation to Munich. The outbound leg, from ZAG to MUC, departs Zagreb at 18:45 after Croatia Airlines’ regional feeder flights come to feed the early-evening departure wave out of Zagreb.
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Destinations that are in this wave are the major European Star Alliance hubs, and chiefly Lufthansa Group hubs. They are Munich, Frankfurt (FRA), Brussels (BRU), Vienna (VIE), Zurich (ZRH), and London Heathrow (LHR). Meanwhile, Croatia Airlines’ regional destinations that feed this wave are Pula (PUY), Zadar (ZAD), Split (SPU), Dubrovnik (DVB), Sarajevo (SJJ), and Skopje (SKP). These all come at least 45 minutes before the Munich flight departs at 18:45.
The Munich flight comes to Germany at 19:55, in time for Croatia Airlines’s passengers to transfer onto Lufthansa’s entire evening departure wave from this airport. However, to make the return leg from MUC to ZAG also feeder-friendly, the aircraft has to wait in Munich for longer than the standard turnover time for a Dash 8 Q400 to permit more passengers from Lufthansa’s coming flights to make the minimum connecting time for the onward travel to Zagreb.
It leaves an hour and 20 minutes after coming. 9A-CQA, the aircraft involved in this incident, has since returned to service. Just twelve hours later, on Tuesday 12th October, it operated flight OU650 to Split (SPU) at 06:30, from where it continued to Munich.
Croatia Airlines will replace its entire Dash 8 Q400 fleet with Airbus A220 aircraft within the next four years as part of its decision to unify its fleet.
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