Croatia finally joined the free movement Schengen Area on 1 January 2023, after being a member of the European Union since 2013. Although all the land and sea border controls were closed at midnight as we entered the New Year, checks at airports still remained in place until 26 March.
The lifting of checks at international air borders was delayed to coincide with the beginning of the flight summer schedule, lasting from 26 March to 28 October. Now all the flights from the Schengen Area, the world’s largest free movement bloc, will be treated as domestic.
Practically all flights to Croatia from Schengen countries and vice versa are now [the same as] domestic flights, without any document control.Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia
“The regime of entry into Croatia at airports will now be the same as it has been in force since 1 January on roads, railway crossings, and seaports”, said Croatia’s Prime “Practically all flights to Croatia from Schengen countries and vice versa are now [the same as] domestic flights, without any document control.”
Airports across the country have been preparing for the changes and are expecting a surge in passenger numbers this year, finally surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Zagreb Airport, the biggest in the country, invested €1 million to update its terminals, Croatian news media N1 reported. More border control booths for travelling to and from non-Schengen countries have been set up and the waiting area spaces have been increased. The airport is expecting to reach 3.8 million passengers by the end of the year, while Split Airport, the second largest, expects almost as many, at 3.3 million, about the same as in 2019.
The country’s southernmost airport, in Dubrovnik might still be lagging a bit behind this year, expecting to only recover 90% of the 2.89 million passengers it saw in 2019, while Zadar Airport, which invested €2.2 million in modifications for Schengen, is foresees a 5% increase on pre-pandemic traffic. The latter became the first Croatian airport to surpass 2019 levels last year when it reached, for the first time, 1 million passengers.