The latest raft of routes announced by Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air have surprisingly overlooked the Slovenian market, instead concentrating on bolstering its already established presence in Skopje, the Macedonian capital, and the former Yugoslav republic’s second city, Ohrid. Crucially, the new services will be underwritten by the Macedonian government, drawing criticism from regional rivals that see state-invention as noncompetitive.

Wizz Air will seek to reinforce its position within Serbia, reestablishing a presence in Nis to complement its Belgrade hub. It is though in Tuzla where the budget airline is most flexing its muscles, with several routes being established linking Scandinavia and Germany with the Bosnian city. With large Macedonian, Kosovan and Bosnian ex pat communities situated throughout Europe it is obvious that Wizz Air have assiduously done their homework, otherwise obscure routes serving definite purposes that will connect Diaspora from the three aforementioned nations with home.

Maribor’s Delavska hranilnica majority-owned Edvard Rusjan Airport has been surprisingly overlooked by Wizz Air – who have committed to maintaining their service operating between London Luton and Ljubljana – although rumours circulating that the trade union backed savings bank are looking to divest themselves of all or part of their holding could have destabilized efforts to bring additional aviational business to Slovenia’s second city, despite spare capacity of which its regional rivals can only dream. Comprising of a modern terminal and a geographic situation affording excellent links to the east of Slovenia and neighbouring countries, the potential of Maribor’s aerodrome will remain untapped whilst the low-cost carriers it seeks to attract continue to give it a wide berth. Despite not a crucial blow to its ambitions it is nevertheless a significant setback for Delavska hranilnica, who seek to entice no-frills airlines with advantageous landing charges that the Fraport-owned Ljubljana Airport cannot compete with. Since the German concern acquired the Brnik-based Joze Pucnik Airport conjecture has abounded in respect of adverse landing charges being levied on established airlines using Brnik or, have at least been quoted to prospective partner airlines. Despite hoping to pick up the slack by offering more economical terms for airlines to operate out of Maribor, the projected growth of the airport has as of yet failed to materialise, aside from Adria Airways reintroducing its presence in Slovenia’s second city after a gap of fifteen years, their service connecting with London Southend amounting to the state flag-carrier dipping its toes into the low-cost market.

Whether other airlines will be tempted to follow suit by utilising Maribor’s favourable operating conditions remains to be seen although, after being overlooked by Wizz Air, the omens appear to be somewhat less than propitious. One suspects much will be decided once rumours of Chinese investment in Maribor’s airport are quashed or confirmed. It would be a great shame for this fit for purpose, modern facility to continue to be under utilised whilst airports of similar or smaller size in the region continue to expand.

Further reading on this issue can be viewed at:

Ex Yugoslav Aviation blog: Slovenia overlooked by Wizz Air