Slovenian flag-carrier Adria Airways continues to hoist ‘business as usual’ banners amid a backdrop of ongoing uncertainty regarding its future ownership. Recent data supplied by the airline suggests a 15% year on year increase in passenger numbers compared to figures for the first six months of 2014, equating to nearly 550,000 travellers being handled primarily through Brnik but also including Adria-operated services from its bases in Lodz and Maribor.

Airlines will forever live and die by the levels of uptake on the routes they operate, their relative health inevitably dictated by the outward impression of continued viability through statistical analysis and aggregation of passenger numbers showing how close to capacity services are running. I do though find the wave of positivity emanating from data, which at first glance would appear encouraging to in fact be somewhat incongruous when several pertinent factors are also taken into consideration. Adria Airways currently operates twelve aircraft, a figure that presumably compares favourably against airlines of similar size, or, those that are based in countries of comparable landmass. This though is only half the story. Of the twelve aircraft only one is actually owned by Adria, the airline acting as a lessee for the other aircraft in its fleet that have been hired presumably on terms that allows Adria’s former aircraft maintenance concern, Adria Airways Tehnika, to oversee the continuation of services. This almost complete absence of assets within its portfolio and disputes involving working conditions have inevitably given rise to dissent within the airline’s rank and file that saw a proposed cabin crew strike scheduled for June 1st only narrowly averted prior to the symbolic start of Adria’s summer schedule, which included the commencement of its high-profile route connecting Maribor with London Southend. Its pilots have also voiced dissatisfaction through their trade union regarding the direction the airline is being taken and, have even questioned Adria’s ongoing viability.

As one of the fifteen state-owned companies earmarked for privatisation, Adria is no longer seen as an intrinsic part of Slovenia’s fabric but more of a financial drain the country can no longer justify in retaining. Whilst the denationalizing process has not gone as smoothly as the incumbent administration would have hoped, in Adria’s case there now seems to be a defined timeline of events which suggests bids for the airline are expected before the end of August, after binding statements of intent were requested earlier in July. A similar, ultimately aborted process occurred three years ago but as one of the ‘gang of fifteen’ companies due to be jettisoned by the state, it is envisaged that this attempt to move the airline into private hands will be more decisive. One of the expected bids is widely anticipated to come from the very pilots so critical of Adria’s business model, thereby giving them more say in the future direction of the business and to some extent being masters of their own destiny. Funding for a bid that for the time being remains theoretical is expected to come from Delavska hranilnica, the trade union backed savings bank who include majority-ownership of Maribor’s Edvard Rusjan Airport as part of their investment portfolio. Delavska will attempt to marry up any proposal with their terms of service although should the sale criteria of Adria be predicated on automatically accepting the terms of the highest bidder rather than a more holistic transaction between it and its employees, it would seem the airline’s pilots will have some stiff competition if they are to be ultimately successful in seizing control of the 91.6% stake.

Further reading on this matter can be viewed at:

Ex Yugoslav Aviation: bids for Adria Airways expected by August’s end