The First Nonstop Flight Between Philadelphia and Dubrovnik

American Airlines launched the first nonstop flight between Philadelphia and Dubrovnik, Croatia, on June 7, 2019, strengthening relations between these two World Heritage cities more than ever before. To celebrate this historic inaugural flight, Philadelphia and Croatian dignitaries joined forces to host three days of events commemorating the rich history and future partnership of the two cities. 

Beginning on June 6, dignitaries and Croatian-Americans gathered during the day to mark the first ever “Philadelphia and Dubrovnik Friendship Day” at multiple historic sites throughout Philadelphia, including the Betsy Ross House and the St. John Neumann Museum. The day culminated with a gala reception for officials and honorary guests from both countries at the National Constitution Center. The gala was sponsored by the Croatian National Tourist Board and co-chaired by Ari Mittleman and Steve Rukavina, the president of the National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation.

Attendees of the gala were given an immersive taste of Dubrovnik’s beauty as they watched a video showcasing the city’s surreal coasts while sipping Croatian wine and listening to live Croatian music. “Croatian-Americans, like myself, know all about Dubrovnik, and you don’t have to be a ‘Game of Thrones’ fan to know about the rich history of that city-state,” said Rukavina. “The flight is going to get more Americans over to the Adriatic coast, and more southeastern Europeans to come to the U.S.A. It’s going to make Philadelphia even more of a global city.”

And the night’s featured speakers couldn’t agree more. As the reception began to wind down, guests gathered to hear short speeches given by the event’s organizers and honorees, including one by Pjer Šimunović, Ambassador of Croatia to the United States. “For us, this is not just a flight,” said Šimunović as he addressed the crowd. “It’s a deeply spiritual, historic connection between two nations, two cities standing historically for freedom and liberty. Libertas, that was the motto of the city of Dubrovnik during the centuries. Liberty and freedom, that’s what Philly proudly stands for. We are proud to have this beautiful Croatian-American unity.”

Following this, anticipation built as Rukavina and Mittleman ended the gala by raffling off two free tickets for the flight to be used at any point during the next 365 days. Events resumed the following morning when Philadelphia city officials raised the Croatian Flag over City Hall. That afternoon, the American Jewish Committee hosted a private lunch for Šimunović and the Croatian delegation to discuss the history of Dubrovnik’s tourism and Croatia-Israel relations. They then traveled to Philadelphia’s International Airport to prepare for the flight as a final press conference was hosted.

“We are very proud to be the first carrier to fly non-stop to Croatia, and to do it from our Philadelphia hub is really exciting for us,” said Jim Moses, Vice President, PHL Hub Operations at American Airlines. “It’s going to continue to build the relationship between these two world heritage cities. The opportunities are endless for not only tourism, but trade and traffic between the two and continuing the drive for business between the two countries. The route is doing incredibly well already so we’re really excited for it!”

Once the inaugural flight touched down in Dubrovnik at 9:30 a.m. on June 8, 2019, travelers were greeted by Croatian reporters and journalists during a press conference for the Croatian media. 

But the future of the friendship between Dubrovnik and Philadelphia doesn’t end there. Šimunović wants to take advantage of the doors opened by the new nonstop flight by partnering with Philadelphia in the near future. “The ambassador is actually here in Philly for the third time,” said Rukavina.  “He’s met the mayor, he’s met the staff, and he wants to do economic development, meeting here in next February or March when Croatia is in the European Union presidency seat. It really puts Philadelphia on the global stage. To have a major event here next spring is a repercussion of our nonstop flight to Dubrovnik, and again, just more and more positive developments for U.S.-Croatian relations.”

American Airlines will offer the nonstop flight to Dubrovnik from now until September 29 in conjunction with a series of seasonal flights from Philadelphia. Although Dubrovnik is the only world heritage city featured in the series besides Philadelphia, there are three other seasonal destinations: Berlin, Germany; Bologna, Italy; and Edinburgh, Scotland. Philadelphians won’t want to miss the chance to see the rich history of their fellow world heritage city for themselves.

“I just love sitting next to the Adriatic Sea looking out on those pretty blue waters, drinking a little Croatian wine and talking to some fine friends and relatives when I’m over there,” said Rukavina, his excitement growing for his return to Dubrovnik. “It’s extremely, surreally positive and a real joy.”


Article wrtitten by Ameilia Winger on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association