Its status as one of the ‘gang of fifteen’ companies slated to be denationalised by the incumbent Slovenian administration seems to have re-energised flag-carrier Adria Airways, their bullish mission-statement to expand services from Ljubljana’s Brnik-based airport, Tirana and Maribor highlighting the few benefits of operating the vast majority of its fleet on sale and lease back terms and increasingly so, on Wet Lease agreements.
Whilst being far from ideal for a national airline to only own one of the twelve aircraft it will use this summer the sale and lease back of several of its fleet gave Adria much needed financial breathing space, enabling it to remain viable and ‘in the air’. Wet Lease arrangements are not without controversy but again afford Adria the luxury of getting more planes airborne, albeit at a greater cost than under Dry or Damp Lease terms where the lessor wouldn’t provide cabin crew or oversee ongoing maintenance. It is fortunate that Adria still have their former aircraft maintenance subsidiary, Adria Airways Tehnika, based at Brnik.
A 5% in traffic market share from Tirana is seen as just a jumping off point for Adria, who anticipate basing an aircraft in the Albanian capital in 2016 to capitalise on growth in traffic between Albania and Germany, as well as with neighbouring Italy. Adria have now also begun flights from the Polish city Lodz to both Amsterdam and Munich.
The most intriguing subplot surrounding Adria’s future direction centres upon their decision to pursue a low-cost business model from Maribor’s Edvard Rusjan Airport, its June to September service connecting Slovenia’s second city with London Southend being used as an acid test to gauge the viability of further routes being introduced from the Delavska hranilnica majority-owned aerodrome. Initial sales have exceeded expectations, prompting rumours of the London service being extended by a further month although it is hoped flights operated by Adria from Maribor will become more frequent, eventually spanning the whole year. Germany is again seen as a growth market to be exploited, as are routes into Azerbaijan and Russia, both long speculated over to link up eastern Slovenia’s many spa resorts with tourists from the former Soviet Union, albeit against a backdrop of a 10% drop in passenger numbers using the Ljubljana to Sheremetyevo service.
Adria’s optimistic business projections extend to growing their passenger numbers to two million per annum by 2020, complementing predictions of turnover eclipsing €220 million during the same period. With a clearly defined strategy to exploit Maribor’s strategic geographic position, It will though be a challenge for the airline to remain all things to all people – a low-cost operator from Maribor and an operator of flights from Brnik to the likes of Stockholm and Berlin, where a more corporate demographic will be the target market.