An American Airlines Boeing 767-300 with 197 passengers landed at Dubrovnik Airport on Saturday morning. The world's largest airline will fly between Philadelphia and Dubrovnik three times a week through August and four times a week in September.
This was the first direct flight from the US since Croatia gained independence in 1991.
"We were promised this route in talks with American Airlines in 2017 based on tourist numbers. Since 2000, we have been recording two-digit growth in American arrivals, second to those from the UK," said Dubrovnik Airport director general Frano Luetic.
"If the route proves successful, negotiations are underway to increase the transport capacity next year as well and make it a daily route," he added.
American Airlines' director for Europe Richard Muise said Dubrovnik was a very interesting destination for Americans and that in Philadelphia passengers from Croatia would have connections to about 70 destinations in the US, Canada and Mexico.
“On this route, we offer over 200 seats in all classes,” he said, adding that the company was expanding its international network, having invested over US$ 28 billion in staff, products and the fleet over the past five years.
The reintroduction of this direct route is proof of the strong economic and personal ties between the American and Croatian people, said Victoria Taylor of the US Embassy in Zagreb.
Philadelphia is the cradle of American diplomacy and Dubrovnik the centre of the ancient Dubrovnik Republic, which had been among the first to recognise American independence, she said, adding that she expects the number of US visitors to Croatia this season to surpass last year's half a million.
"I hope this route is just the first of many to follow," said Taylor.
Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Frankovic said the route once again confirmed Dubrovnik's value. Dubrovnik-Neretva County head Nikola Dobroslavic called the event important for the county, and Tourism Ministry state secretary Frano Matusic said he was pleased with the excellent relations between the authorities of Dubrovnik and Philadelphia.