Adria Airways’ long awaited decision regarding its operations from Maribor’s Edvard Rusjan Airport has yet to be revealed, the overdue announcement seemingly allied to the future plans for its existing Maribor to London Southend route. A statement has for a while been expected as to whether Slovenia’s flag carrier intends to extend the operational period of its flagship service into London but as things stand, the original June 1st to September 30th schedule remains in place. The official word from Adria points to their satisfaction with a 60% uptake of the service between the east of Slovenia and the Essex-based airport but it is difficult to add credence to this contentment when the predominant aircraft used on the route is a Bombardier CRJ900, a plane with a maximum capacity of 86 passengers. Whilst operating costs of a smaller jet are inevitably smaller it is hard to imagine Adria are making a sizeable profit with only a cabin load of 60% that equates to approximately 52 seats per flight being occupied. A larger A319 aircraft is also periodically used but its need is greater elsewhere, especially on one of the many seasonal charter services between Ljubljana and the Dodecanese.

Maribor’s city authority are keen for the service into London to be maintained and extended, affording Slovenia’s second city some much needed traction in a tourist market where it has been chronically underrepresented. Despite offering some outstanding vacation opportunities Maribor suffers from something akin to an image crisis, not knowing to which demographics and markets is should pitch itself. Although not on the same page architecturally as Ljubljana, Maribor, by geographic definition engenders a more Slavic feel than its rival and whilst not being as ideal a base as the Slovenian capital to potentially access the many component contrasts that make up the nation, the gently rolling Pohorje range and the infinite possibilities offered by viticulturists present a distinct contrast to the more vertiginous Julian Alps and overdeveloped Adriatic coastline. It would seem though that the decisive factor as to whether further Adria-operated services are introduced to complement or replace the existing London route hinge on the creation of a financial fighting fund, to aid sustainable and diversified tourism in the Maribor region. This could entice Adria to permanently locate one of ‘its’* aircraft in Maribor, slashing the costs associated with flying an empty plane from Brnik before each trip to Southend. *(I emphasise ‘its’ rather loosely regarding Adria’s fleet, owing to only one of the twelve jets it will operate this summer actually being owned by the airline).

Basing an aircraft in Maribor would enable Adria to develop the budget-airline side of its business and clearly demarcate the more corporate element of its operation, a function satisfied by many of its scheduled flights from Brnik. Routes into Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Russia have been rumoured for some time and whilst Maribor’s close proximity to several spa complexes would be a decisive factor in attracting visitors from the former Soviet Union, the virtual collapse in passenger numbers on Adria’s service between Brnik and Sheremetyevo adds a cautionary tale to placing too great an emphasis on patronage from the east.

Flights between Maribor and London Southend have proved popular with cross border tourists from Austria and Croatia although there is also an opportunity to develop market penetration with the as of yet unrealised Hungarian demographic. Rumours continue to circulate of routes linking Maribor with the likes of Barcelona and Berlin but the operator of these potential services remains unclear, with recent indications linking the Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air with the Delavska hranilnica-owned airport. Adria have previously expressed a tentative, non-binding interest in introducing services to Spain’s tourism hot spots and Germany but the introduction of Wizz Air into the mix could see an overlap of routes that Adria, with the most to lose, will be keen to avoid.

Further reading on this matter can be viewed at:

Ex Yugoslav Aviation: Adria still to decide on future Maribor routes