The reinstatement of services operated by Adria Airways from Maribor’s Edvard Rusjan Airport after a fifteen year hiatus have in the last few days come to a scheduled halt, its four month service connecting Slovenia’s east with the Essex-based London Southend ended on September 29th.
Thrice weekly flights linking Maribor with a southeastern airport chosen for its close geographic proximity to London were predominantly aimed at British travellers seeking an alternative to the established Ljubljana tourist trail, complementing the needs of travellers from neighbouring countries and Slovenia itself who sought a low-cost connection with the English capital. Sadly for Maribor the majority of passengers were Austrians and Croats returning home from a visit to London, ensuring the financial benefit felt in the region was negligible. Insufficient marketing only served to keep Maribor a closely guarded secret from UK tourists and crucially deprived the ailing Slovenian economy of much needed tourism euros(€). Adria also presumably found the fiscal benefits of operating the route to be imperceptible once the cost of flying an empty aircraft from Ljubljana’s Brnik Airport to Maribor before its outward flight to Southend had been factored in. A 71% occupancy rate suggests the route was a success but operating margins would have been extremely narrow for a service predicated on a low-cost model.
Using a mixture of planes that comprised of the Airbus A319/320 class of larger airliners and a smaller CRJ900 style jet that serviced the majority of flights, a few technical issues arose but nothing exceptional, despite a potentially serious but extremely commonplace avian collision whilst on the Essex coast. Flights were able to turn tail on average in a respectable 48 minutes that whilst unremarkable, a length of time that kept delays to an acceptable minimum.
Despite the municipalities of Maribor, Hoce-Slivnica and several surrounding districts collectively creating a financial fighting fund to in effect keep Adria operating out of Maribor even if its service proved to run at a loss, Slovenia’s flag-carrier opted to curtail its London route as planned rather than elongate the service into winter months that are notoriously bleak for the Slovenian aviation industry. Adria have yet to confirm their intentions for 2016 – there are in my mind four issues at hand for them to address. Will the London service recommence? Do Adria plan to link the likes of Russia and Azerbaijan with Maribor, as rumoured? Are the financial ‘handcuffs’ proposed by the cabal of municipalities sufficient to persuade the airline to base an aircraft at Edvard Rusjan Aerodrom, or have Adria ultimately decided that the Maribor experiment was a worthy but futile exercise, one that is untenable over the long term?
The airline’s PR office will be working overtime to address these issues and more besides following a 2015 that has rarely seen Adria out of the media glare. An ongoing sale process of 91% of the state-owned airline lends a destabilising effect to its day to day running, as do rumours of discontent amongst the rank and file that saw industrial action in June instigated by its cabin crews narrowly averted. The most significant issue facing Adria is though the real prospect of it not owning any of the aircraft it uses to fulfill its timetabled obligations now that the only jet in its portfolio, a CRJ200-class Bombardier, is due to be decommissioned during the early months of 2016. Of the 12-13 aircraft operated this summer season this was the only one owned by Adria – the others loaned to the airline on Wet Lease terms. In isolation such circumstances are less than ideal for any airline; collectively they amount to untenable operating conditions over the medium to long term.
Further reading on these issues can be viewed at: