A family business flying high

When people think of family businesses, it tends to evoke images of someone working in a shop or something industrial. In 1994, a company was established, with operations starting in May 1995. Initially beginning with cargo, it would later go on to transport passengers and that company is aircraft provider Trade Air, and today it looks after 100 employees and has a turnover of 11 million euros. When Managing Director Marko Cvijin took over, the remit was clear: “My father wanted to have me grow the company and together we looked at the areas to focus on in order to achieve that,” he explains.

Operations are centred around Zagreb airport, something that means a lot to Marko: “The family is based there so this is why it was an important central location. That being said because the company does a lot of ACMI operations elsewhere bases are opened as necessary. This is Trade Air’s core trade, alongside the chartered flights, and is a service with potential for growth,” he outlines. These operations, often referred to as wet leases, form a core part of what the company does. Essentially what this means is that the airline provides the planes, crew, maintenance and insurance, with the client paying for the hours of its particular operation. For example, in spring 2017 the company secured a contract with Meridiana, an Italian airline, for operations on its behalf based out of Milan Malpensa. Also, at the same time another contract was secured with Israeli company IsrAir for its operations out of Tel Aviv.

Trade Air supplies these clients, using a fleet that includes two Fokker 100s and Airbus A320s, servicing the needs of more than 50 other European and Middle eastern airlines, among which are Thomas Cook, Germanwings, HOP!, Croatia Airlines, Adria Airways, Flybe and many others. So far, the company has operated to more than 300 different airports, with the contract in Australia a few years ago in behalf of Australian government being one of the most exotic ones. As Marko explains, the company is always looking at improvements, something that it recently had to focus on: “Twenty years ago, this started with a freighter fleet. As it began to grow in 2005, two Fokker 100s were purchased from American Airlines to begin passenger transport. In recent times the Fokkers are getting older, so that was why the decision was made to invest in Airbuses,” he details.

The adjustments to meet customer demand also occurs on board the flights, such as tweaking the catering options to meet changing requirements: “Originally there was a high-class catering option on some flights, while others were the low-cost option. In both cases, it was important to follow the needs of the client. On the chartered side, there is a mix of everything. For example, on the packages for the Leonard Cohen tour there was a full meal including soup, main course and dessert, something that as you can imagine is quite complicated on a short flight, however Trade Air is happy to adjust in order meet client requirements,” he analyses.

Marko is also keen to emphasise how hard the company is working in terms of social responsibility: “The approach has always been to be as environmentally friendly as possible within the framework of current legislation. In terms of health and safety, this is something that needs to be taken seriously and Trade Air follows all current Croatian regulations,” he states. This includes numerous quality and safety audits such as IOSA, Part 145 and Part M Supart G certification. The approach is emphasised with the motto: ‘Safety and quality cannot be inspected into a product or service, this must be designed into it.’

Trade Air has three targets that it strives to maintain; reliability, punctuality and efficiency, with an emphasis on providing cost-effective travel. Recently these efforts were rewarded as the carrier received an award for the third year running from one Croatia’s leading financial institutions (FINA), something that Marko feels reflects the effort that Trade Air has put into its organisation: “Whatever it is that the business is doing, it is headed in the right direction. However, while the award is flattering, the focus remains on the work and continuing to build on that success,” Marko insists. He then goes on to offer a few hints as to what those plans are: “The company intends to keep going within the ACMI sector and looking into adding new flights to add to the fleet. There are also steps to look into the market beyond Europe, for example a North American market in particular.”

It seems strange to think that an operation of this size can be thought of as something passed on from father to son. However, it is clear while talking to Marko this is not simply the case of being handed over the reins and told to carry on as before, there is the sense that this project is being moved forward in a positive way. This is reflected in the company’s training scheme, emphasising the foundation of a knowledge base and an investment in the future. In short, there is more to come from Trade Air, and if all goes to plan the next generation will continue to build on this success.

Trade Air
• ACMI, scheduled and chartered flights based in Zagreb, Croatia
• Also specialises in transporting dangerous goods
• Clients include 50+ other European and Middle eastern airlines, among which are Thomas Cook, Germanwings, HOP!, Croatia Airlines, Adria Airways and Flybe