The long anticipated announcement from Adria Airways regarding the future of its route connecting Maribor with Essex-based London Southend has been met with disappointment – the flag-carrier passing up the chance to elongate the service beyond its original June 1st-September 30th schedule.

Occupancy rates of between 60-70% were declared satisfactory by Adria but with few foreign tourists flying into the often overlooked east of Slovenia, the economic benefits felt in Maribor have been negligible. Predominantly used by Slovenians returning from a vacation in England and passengers from bordering countries taking advantage of a cheap passage into the UK, only a very small proportion of travellers fell within the tourist rubric, thus adding very little to the bottom line in Maribor and its surrounding area. The proposed adoption of a financial development fund, akin to golden handcuffs to tempt Adria to base one of its aircraft at  Edvard Rusjan Airport, was assumed to be the deciding factor of whether the London Southend service would be extended into the winter months, to complement additional routes that the Delavska hranilnica-owned aerodrome and Adria themselves hoped to introduce. The fund, to be contributed to by Maribor’s Municipality and several surrounding regions including the Hoce-Slivnica district in which the airport is located was designed on the premise that money spent to bring in tourism euros(€) was a sound investment when viewed over the medium to long term. Whether the announcement of Adria ending its service into Southend on the date it originally intended, a date it previously announced when there had been no inkling of a development fund, signifies the end of the regional investment fund before it has even started is difficult to say although, Adria may still seek to utilise this welcome financial stream by introducing other routes they deem more likely to be profitable and beneficial to the local economy.

An interesting aside it may be but the news that Adria have dispensed with a leased Airbus A320 several weeks before its agreement ended with the Danish Air Transport group could be linked to the decision not to extend its first route in fifteen years from Maribor. The remaining flights between Slovenia and England, running at approximately 60% of capacity would not require the services of a larger A320 jet – one of the aircraft operated on the route along with the smaller Bombardier CRJ900-class planes. There would also be a reduced need for a larger aircraft during the relatively fallow winter schedule, especially as the chance to exploit the Pohorje ski scene has yet to be seized upon.

It should though be noted that by deciding to honour but not increase its timetabled service between Maribor and the UK Adria has not reneged on its original plans, but merely opted for a pragmatic approach. Whilst not being a soar away success the route has not statistically been a failure but the desired boost to local tourism in and around Maribor has failed to materialise. This though is more a case for the tourism authorities to address, rather than the airline itself. Is this the end of the relationship between Adria and Maribor Airport? I suspect and hope not but until further announcements on the long-term fate(2016 onwards) of the London route and the prospect of future services to the likes of Germany and Spain are denied or confirmed, the Slovenian aviation industry will continue to be shrouded in uncertainty.

Further reading on this matter can be viewed at:

Vecer: Maribor to end London route as scheduled