The advent of spring coincides with the release of Ljubljana Airport’s timetable for the period until the end of October, for the purposes of clarification known as the summer schedule. Whilst many services are very much a case of ‘as you were’, a raft of additional routes or reintroduced links repackaged as such have been announced by the Brnik-based facility.
Swiss Air is one such airline, with daily flights connecting the Slovenian capital with Zurich. I though do recall using Swiss in the post 9/11 days between Manchester and Ljubljana via Zurich, three months after the events of September 11th forever changed the face of aviation. It is positive news, nevertheless, to see such a competent and respected airline once again linking up Ljubljana with the rest of Europe, even if connecting services often involve an interminable wait at Zurich in between flights. Turkish Air, already with an impressive tally of seven flights a week between the crossroads of Europe and the gateway to Asia have added an extra three flights. Whether these services are to accommodate the demands of gastarbiters and their families is impossible for me to say but the 43% increase in flights between Istanbul and Brnik is certainly being driven by strong demand, be it from guest-workers accessing Austria(or even Slovenia) and/or a spike in tourism levels.
As predicted in an earlier blog-post Maribor Airport has shown the expected interest of increasing its roster of services, something this modern and recently acquired facility is well placed to achieve, with spare capacity of which its regional neighbours can only dream. The much publicised recent announcement of Adria Airways once more(through necessity or diversification) operating flights from Slovenia’s second-city will see its route into London(via Southend Airport) act as a litmus-test for the viability of future services operated out of Maribor by the nations’s flag-carrier, those strongly rumoured to include Baku and a yet to be confirmed Russian city. The nearby Rogaska Slatina spa-facilities have proved popular with travellers from Azerbaijan but the 3-4,000 visitors it annually receives from the former Soviet-republic are insufficient in number to justify a service between Baku and Eastern Slovenia. If though a direct service was introduced those figures will surely quadruple or more. Equally, spa-loving Russians wishing to take advantage of Gazprom’s ownership of several prominent hotels around Pohorje and, Terme Maribor, would welcome a more straightforward passage into Slovenia. If the rumours surrounding these potential routes bear fruit it would confirm some much overdue joined-up thinking was finally taking place within the Slovenian tourism industry, in turn more than justifying the purchase of Maribor Airport by the trade-union backed savings bank, Delavska hranilnica. With a majority stake in Edvard Rusjan Airport Delavska’s acquisition has proven popular within a country in effect being privatised, where bids for state-owned institutions are expected to emanate more from abroad than within Slovenia’s borders. Fraport, the German-based owners of Frankfurt Airport and the outright, uncontested owner-operator of Ljubljana Airport are a good fit for the country’s principle airport but nevertheless, foreign ownership of prime Slovenian assets is about as far away from the secessionists’ ideals of the early nineties as can be imagined.
Despite Ljubljana Airport’s schedule for 2015 already being in the public domain many minds will be ruminating over what 2016 will hold, both at Brnik and Maribor Airport. There are undoubtedly exciting times ahead for both, now seemingly under the correct stewardship and embracing cooperation with the main accommodation providers of the area. It is though important to tap into the apposite market-demographics and not just be lured by temptation to simply introduce routes linking Slovenia with high-profile but ultimately inappropriate locations. There are also many high-profile and potentially yet further underlying issues with much of the hotel-stock in many of Slovenia’s high-traffic resorts, ensuring many visits amount to day-trips rather than overnight stays. There is much work to be done throughout the country but viewed in isolation, the Slovenian aviation industry has taken the lead in tentatively ushering in a new era for the country’s tourism sector. Developments over the nest twelve months will decisively prove whether this is to be the start of a full-fledged renaissance or, a mere flash in the pan.
Further reading on this subject can be viewed at: RTV Slovenia: more flights & destinations for Ljubljana Airport