On the Ramp in Zagreb with Davor Brixy

On the Ramp in Zagreb with Davor Brixy

13. 04. 2023 Blog 13min

As the summer season approaches and the Balkan region is about to get busy again, we are thrilled to talk to one of Euro Jet's most esteemed aviators and undoubtedly one of the funniest colleagues in the company. Although any conversation with Davor Brixy, the Country Manager for Croatia and Slovenia is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, we delved into some serious topics as well. We explored what operators can anticipate when scheduling flights to the most popular summer destinations in the Adriatic Sea and discussed how a well-staffed team contributes to delivering exceptional ground support service.

Davor Brixy, Euro Jet's Country Manager for Croatia and Slovenia

Brixy, you are one of the most experienced and respected aviation professionals on the Euro Jet team. How did the story of you and aviation begin?

I have been an aviation nerd since I was a little boy. I loved assembling aircraft models and reading about the history of aviation. My father worked as an editor for a local newspaper and had contacts at the US embassy in Zagreb which had a large library. They would lend me English encyclopedias and books about aviation, and I would spend hours buried in these books. It was just natural that I would study aviation and graduate as an Aviation Mechanic.

But you did not stay in the field of aircraft maintenance. What has been your career path at Zagreb airport?

In 1984 I started working in ground operations at Zagreb airport, eventually being promoted to Shift Leader in Aircraft and Ramp Operations. I was also involved in airline check-in procedures and gained experience working landside as well as airside.

Then general aviation made an entrance into Croatia, and I was there at the very beginning! Back in the day it was just some diplomatic flights and a couple private jets coming in from Italy or Austria. But I started enjoying these unscheduled flights even more than the scheduled traffic because arranging all necessary services and meeting the crews was just a bigger challenge. The crews were always happy that someone was there to talk to them and knew a lot about their aircraft. I realized more and more that I was a people person and a great fit for this type of work. When the first flight support company started operating at the airport, I began cooperating with them, which eventually became a full-time job.

Brixy manages a large team, is responsible for local vendor relations, and must handle a lot of paperwork but his favorite part of the job is being on the ramp at Zagreb airport.

Is this where Euro Jet enters the scene?

Yes, in 2008, when Euro Jet was established, I transitioned into it and have stayed for the past 15 years. The thing I like the most about Euro Jet is that everything is done properly. Whether it is the administration or the ground operation, all is held to the highest standards. It is also great to work for a company based out of Prague – each visit to the headquarters brings an opportunity to enjoy my beloved Czech beer!

You oversee flights at eleven airports all across Croatia and Slovenia. Can you introduce us to your colleagues in these locations?

Let me start at my home airport of Zagreb (LDZA/ZAG) where I have the pleasure of cooperating with Luka Spetic, Nicol Kosnjek and Antea Mandic. Antea and Luka usually move to Dubrovnik (LDDU/DBV) for the busy summer season where they support flights along with Marela Vukic, Zoran Junuzovic and Zoran Hotko who has been with us for a long time and knows the airport inside out.

Flights coming into Split (LDSP/SPU) are supported by Lona Mornar and Ivana Ruzicic. Both live by the seaside just 500 meters away from the airport, which gives us great flexibility for last-minute requests. In Zadar (LDZD/ZAD), our agents are Lucija and Sime Jukic. During the summer months we make sure we are adequately staffed and hire seasonal help so that each of our customers has our full attention even during the busy time.

In the western part of Croatia, Pula (LDPL/PUI) flights are serviced by Damir Modrusan. Rijeka airport (LDRI/RJK) is supported by the experienced Hrvoje Pavacic who also works at the airport as the ATC Technician.

Brixy with his colleagues at Zagreb and Dubrovnik airports

How about your team in Slovenia?

Things are running very smoothly in Ljubljana (LJLJ/LJU) under Dusan Lovrencec as Station Manager. Our two Ground Support Coordinators, Spela Budic in Ljubljana and Boris Spehar in Maribor (LJMB/MBX) are also valuable members of our team.

Do you have any tips on how to manage such a large team spread across two countries?

Regular visits are important as meeting your team face-to-face is a crucial aspect of building a good relationship with them. I go on a major round the country trip twice a year and visit as many individual airports as necessary. It might be time consuming, but it is worth the effort.

Almost the entire Croatia and Slovenia team gathered for some food and celebration at the end of 2022.

Next to managing the team, you are also responsible for local vendor relations and must process a lot of paperwork. Do you still get to personally support some of our flights at Zagreb airport?

Oh, definitely! It is my favorite part of the job and handling flights also allows me to stay up to date with all required procedures. I understand the importance of delegating tasks to my team but I really enjoy being on the ramp and personally working on some of our flights.

While Euro Jet has its own VIP crew lounges and offices in Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik, what is the overall general aviation set-up in Croatia?

During the summer season, Croatia aims at attracting as many tourists as possible. This means that a scheduled service flight with over 150 passengers on board gets priority over a private jet. Since the airports are focused on commercial aviation, it sometimes can happen that general aviation personnel are understaffed. That is where we come in. In the very busy summer season, it really pays off to use a ground support company for general aviation flights. The best promotion for us is when a crew witnesses firsthand how we expedite all ground services for which they would normally have to wait long hours.

In my opinion, Zadar with its VIP terminal is the most general-aviation-friendly airport. Zagreb is a large airport, with a general aviation ramp as well as a military ramp. Split, on the other hand, has only two taxiways and all flights must be slotted. Dubrovnik is perfect in terms of parking availability and is often used to reposition aircraft from Split or even Tivat in Montenegro.

As for our own facilities, we always make sure they are conveniently positioned: In Zagreb, our lounge is located airside; in Split we are placed right next to the newly built GAT; and in Dubrovnik our lounge is inside the main terminal, a close distance for the crews after landing.

Euro Jet offers flight support services at eleven airports all across Croatia and Slovenia.

What type of flights do you service most in Croatia? Is there a noticeable difference between the summer and winter season?

As the country’s capital, Zagreb sees traffic all year around with a lot of business travel. As Croatia is a member of NATO, we also support military flights throughout the year. The other airports are visibly affected by the seasonal travel which starts at the end of April and last through September. Passengers on private flights usually head towards their yachts and vacations on the small Croatian islands or the Istrian peninsula.

While the city of Dubrovnik is world-famous, the island of Vis or the charming villages of the Istrian Peninsula are Croatia's true hidden gems.

Croatia is famous for some of its holiday destinations – we all probably know the island of Krk or the city of Dubrovnik. But are there any hidden gems that you would recommend?

My personal summer recommendation is visiting the region between the cities of Zadar and Sibenik or going to the Croatian islands. Especially the island of Vis is a must-see that remains undiscovered by tourists.

For those planning a trip in mid-September, I suggest visiting the central area of the Istrian Peninsula with charming Tuscany-style villages. If you are looking to indulge in a bit of luxury, the eastern coast of Istria offers some of the finest 5-star hotels in the region.

Of course, Game of Thrones enthusiasts cannot miss Dubrovnik – so much history and amazing architecture! But I have a handy tip to avoid the crowds: Just ten minutes from the Dubrovnik airport lies the charming town of Cavtat where you will find lovely accommodation options and excellent restaurants. From there, you can take a ferry to the Dubrovnik harbor and be in the historic city center in no time.

What is your food and drink recommendation when visiting Croatia?

Croatia prides itself on its great quality of wine. Riesling is a beloved white wine that's often mixed with sparkling water for a refreshing summer treat. Posip is another delectable white wine. Istria produces perfect red wine while the strongest wine called Babic can be found in the Sibenik region.

No stroll through any Croatian town is complete without a pause for a quick snack of Burek, a flaky pastry filled with mouthwatering cheese. Croatia is renowned for its seafood cuisine, with squid-ink risotto being a unique specialty boasting a striking black color. Although perhaps not ideal for a first date, it is certainly a dish worth trying.

No stroll through any Croatian town is complete without a pause for a quick snack of Burek.

Let’s talk about your life outside the airport. What keeps you occupied after business hours?

With my wife, we have eight cats and two dogs, all of which are rescues. We rescued one cat from the side of the road in Bosnia, another from Slovenia, and the rest from Croatia. Recently, we also rescued an older dog who had never had a home and must have had a very hard life. We hope to make his final years as comfortable and full of love as possible.

Since moving to a house in the country, I have been doing a lot of gardening. I like listening to my record collection and I still buy new aviation books – the library has grown significantly over the years.

Brixy, thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to talk to us. Final question, what are your plans for the next couple of years?

I still have a few years to spend in aviation. I want to keep doing my best in the role of Country Manager while also focusing on training our new agents. I see a lot of sense in passing on my knowledge to the younger generation of aviation experts.

Images: Euro Jet Archive, EJ Croatia Team Archive, Shutterstock

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