Interview with Pragusa CEO Kresimir Budinski on US flights to Croatia and expansion plans
May 13, 2021 – TCN’s announcement of direct flights to Dubrovnik from Los Angeles and New York with PRAGUSA.ONE earlier this month was met with a combination of glee and skepticism. An interview with the CEO of PRAGUSA.ONE, Kresimir Budinski.
If I had a dollar for every flight ad or every new airline that started in Croatia in the past decade …
After the global aviation industry nearly collapsed last year due to the pandemic, some airlines and routes are coming back stronger than before. Ryanair’s aggressive entry into the Zagreb market and its challenge to Croatian Airlines subsidies is huge news for the Croatian capital, but in Dubrovnik the luxury tourism sector is buzzing with announcements of flights from the United States.
I received a LOT of criticism when I reported that Delta was about to announce direct flights from New York to Dubrovnik, a full week before the official announcement. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that speculation without confirmation is counterproductive. But since my sources for Delta were rock solid, I was confident enough to post – and be the first with the news.
The interest of the North American market is enormous. TCN, through its award-winning community Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber, Kresimir Macan and Nikolina Vicelic, organized a trip for ABC News to Dubrovnik last summer, which resulted in 6 reports on American trips to Dubrovnik, including the one above on Good Morning America, which has been watched by 12.5 million people.
Many people worked very hard to establish direct flights to Croatia from North America, and the April 19 announcement that United would fly from New York to Dubrovnik turned out to be the first in a series of good news.
The news got even better on May 2, as TCN was the first to release information on direct flights to Kings Landing from New York AND Los Angeles with a new airline, PRAGUSA.ONE.
The news was greeted with a mixture of joy and skepticism. Who was this airline and how could they perform such flights?
I decided to contact the CEO of PRAGUSA.ONE, Kresimir Budinski, to ask him directly. We met recently for a few cold moments in Dubrovnik, where I asked her for more details. The good news is that he exists, seems very committed, and is clearly passionate about what he does. Will these flights take place? I obviously don’t have the answer, so let me turn it over to a man with more knowledge on the subject, and you can judge for yourself.
1. You have advertised direct flights from Los Angeles and New York to Dubrovnik, which is amazing, congratulations! Not many people have heard of PRAGUSA.ONE, can you tell us a bit about your business first?
PRAGUSA.ONE Ltd is a company established in August 2020 with its registered office in London, UK. The company is established as a travel agency with a 5 year transformation plan to become an airline with tailor-made point-to-point travel products. It is a private enterprise.
2. And now tell us how you managed to do what so many others have tried and failed?
The market is currently going through a big transformation due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This is an opportunity for new ideas and new business strategies to take its place in the process of market recovery.
3. Is it a secret to tell us how you got there?
Almost a year of hard work where we combined our skills, experience and market conditions. Decisions are made on time and we are well on our way to becoming a successful business.
4. Can you tell us a bit about the negotiation process with the Croatian authorities? This is an area that interests me particularly …
We have had contacts with two institutions. Dubrovnik Airport and the Croatian Civil Aviation Agency were presented with the project and our intentions in September 2020. Both institutions hosted our project at that time.
5. Your message to the many skeptics?
There is no message. Let them live in their cosmos. Sending a message and trying to change their mindset is a psychotherapist’s job.
6. Tell us about Croatia’s demand in North America. United and Delta have also announced connections between New York and Dubrovnik.
There is a strong demand for all three companies. Even there is a space to increase the incoming capacity. So far, more than 2000 people have registered to travel with PRAGUSA.ONE. Dozens of US travel agents have received our full travel package offers and we expect to sell our capacity within the next 30 days. The total capacity of PRAGUSA.ONE is 30,400 places. This means that the three companies have a capacity of 50,000 seats from the United States until the end of October 2021.
7. If this summer turns out as you hope, what are your other plans for PRAGUSA.ONE and Croatia?
Our long-term plan is to open direct flights in 2022 from Los Angeles, New York, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Beijing, Chengdu and Tokyo. We will operate from 2 bases, Prague and Dubrovnik with the Airbus A330 and A350 fleet. At the same time, we are particularly focusing on the development of the Chinese market and a special sub-fleet of Airbus A350s to operate only China.
8. And finally, the details. When do flights from New York and LA to Dubrovnik start, how often, when do they stop, how much do they cost, and when and where can we buy tickets?
First flights scheduled for June 21, 2021 with the flight to New York (EWR) followed by the first flight to Los Angeles (LAX) on June 22, 2021. Both flights will operate three flights per week. Fares start at $ 790 one way and $ 1190 round trip to New York. Fares on the Los Angeles route start at $ 990 one-way and $ 1,490 round-trip economy. Reservations are available on the PRAGUSA.ONE website and ticket sales start May 24, 2021 (www.pragusa.one).
9. And finally, finally … on a scale of 1% to 100%, how confident are you that these thefts will occur?
This is a story we will be following closely and will post updates as soon as we have them.
In the meantime, more information on the official PRAGUSA.ONE website.
For the latest news on flights, see the section on flights to Croatia.
Are you going to Croatia in 2021? What you need to know in the Guide to TC flights to Croatia.