Ljubljana’s Brnik Airport handled close to half a million passengers during the first five months of 2015, data for May being particularly impressive that saw a 19.6% year on year increase on corresponding figures for 2014.

Aircraft movements have nevertheless fallen but the replacement of larger aircraft on routes previously serviced by smaller planes has inevitably increased passenger uptake in the wake of Adria Airways’ pursuit of a business model which, despite its critics, has found some success in wet leasing all but one of its twelve aircraft. The flag-carrier’s preference for larger A319-style planes has seen, for example, the seasonal twice weekly Manchester-Ljubljana charter service benefit from greater capacity that until recently had to predominantly make do with inadequately small Bombardier CRJ900-class aircraft. Much of the growth in passenger numbers is though related to Turkish Airways increasing its existing weekly flights between Slovenia and Istanbul from seven to ten, with Air Serbia similarly expanding connections between the former Yugoslav republics. After a hiatus over a decade long Swiss Air have also reintroduced its Zurich-Ljubljana service although there is some overlap with Adria’s route between the two cities.

The peak summer season inevitably produces an appreciable spike in passenger numbers, with both tourists flocking into Ljubljana and Slovenes heading for warmer, Mediterranean and Aegean climes. Much of Adria’s traffic links Slovenia with the Greek islands and whilst the volatile political and financial situation in Athens is being continually monitored, there aren’t anticipated to be any problems for those travelling from Brnik on their national airline, especially, with both nations being members of the Eurozone and travellers already in possession of hard currency before their arrival on Greek soil.

Whilst the wide range of routes operating out of Slovenia’s primary airport during the summer timetable is being rightly viewed as good news for the country and the Fraport-owned aerodrome, Brnik will wish to spread its traffic more evenly throughout the year and not preside over a near empty airport once the winter schedule comes into operation. Despite Slovenia being well known for its winter sports and a handful of prominent ski resorts, more, much more needs to be done to bring skiers to the country between December to March, giving Brnik a timely financial boost similar to the bonanza harvested each year by Innsbruck’s Kranebitten Airport, a far smaller operation than Ljubljana. The uncertainty surrounding the future of several of Slovenia’s ski resorts and the dire condition of many of Bohinj’s hotels will though have to be addressed before the country can be marketed as a viable(and cheaper) alternative to Austria and Italy. Quite frankly, if there is hardly anywhere to stay close to Lake Bohinj other than Ski Hotel Vogel and Hotel Jezero, the area isn’t ready to once again receive winter visitors in greater numbers, especially not until the futures of the Bellevue, Zlatorog and Hotel Bohinj have been satisfactorily resolved.

Equally, the precarious state of Bovec’s future as a ski resort has for the last few winters held back Slovenia. Formerly championed as the most snow-sure resort offering the country’s highest skiing on Mount Kanin, feelings of despondency and fears for the future have stalked Bovec’s residents ever since the cableway deposited several of its carriages onto Kanin’s snowy slopes, immediately bringing operations to an abrupt standstill and resulting in Bovec’s guests being bussed every morning to the resort of Sella Nevea, on the Italian side of Kanin. Much hand-wringing and several failed auctions later has finally seen the vast majority of the lift apparatus fall(no pun intended) into municipal hands, at least now guaranteeing the immediate future of Bovec being at the mercy of its power-brokers. An uphill struggle in more ways than one though means time is very much against those tasked with bringing winter-sports back to the slopes of Kanin for the 2015/16 season but notwithstanding the serious issues of installing a new or renovated lift system that must regain the confidence of the paying public and, extensive structural improvements needed to several of the cableway’s pylons, there is still optimism that Bovec can this winter finally come back in from the cold.

The aviation industry is not one to stand still, planning months if not years in advance from the present day. It is with this in mind that Fraport will be seeking new routes for 2016 and in line with the extension of services operated by Turkish Airways and Air Serbia, the hope for existing links to be expanded. News of Polish flag-carrier LOT announcing a new service connecting Warsaw with Ljubljana from spring 2016 has sounded the starting gun for what promises to be just the first of a fresh raft of routes joining Brnik’s burgeoning roster. Whilst Adria will continue to seek new ways of expanding its business despite operating under a cloud of uncertainty linked to its ongoing but protracted privatisation process, Fraport will be keen to forge ahead with loosening the reliance Brnik has for many years had with Adria’s fortunes. There has to be more to life for Brnik than Adria Airways but equally, Adria, by basing an aircraft in the Polish city of Lodz and after a fifteen year hiatus once more operating out of Maribor, is seeking to diversify its business model which in effect is in the process of the airline arguably being cleaved into two semi-autonomous entities. Retaining its scheduled services from Brnik which primarily caters for the business and corporate sectors, Adria can afford to absorb Fraport’s reported spike in landing charges on such routes. In its desire to pursue a low-cost side of its business Adria is in effect experimenting with a Maribor-London Southend route very much being seen as a test case for the viability(or otherwise) of future budget services to be operated out of Edvard Rusjan Airport. It is with a high degree of certainty that the next few months will provide several intriguing stories within Slovenia’s aviation sector; it does though very much remain to be seen if this ultimately only serves to pose more questions than answers.

Further reading on this subject can be viewed at:

Gorenjski Glas: Brnik posts vastly increased passenger numbers for 2015