Maribor’s Edvard Rusjan Airport has confirmed what it will hope to be a successful tie up with Express Airways(EA). Flights to Duesseldorf, the North Rhine-Westphalia city base of EA, and the Croatian coastal city of Split, will significantly mitigate the loss of Adria Airways’ 2015 service connecting Slovenia’s second city with London Southend.
Scheduled to operate the twice-weekly flights during a six month period between the end of April and October, Express Airways hope to service the route with a Boeing 737-300, an aircraft with a significantly larger capacity that the Bombardier jets so favoured by Adria. Such a significant commitment by EA outlines their confidence, be it misguided or otherwise, of being able to post load factor data comparable to or in excess of the estimated 70% that Adria enjoyed on its flights between Maribor and London. These flights were though predominantly serviced by aircraft with smaller capacities, resulting in negligible benefits to the local area. Many passengers travelled from outside of Slovenia’s borders to take advantage of a convenient passage into the UK but few of their tourist euros(€) benefited the Maribor economy. Furthermore, the uptake from English tourists was minimal but it is nevertheless presumed the German market hasn’t been randomly targeted. Slovenia is a popular overland destination with Teutonic tourists who can now cover the 800 kilometres point to point in 90 minutes, instead of a time consuming car journey.
Express Airways’ weekly service between Maribor and Split appears to be predicated on the assumption that flights will be equally occupied by tourists from both countries wishing to take their vacations in the other, again without an interminable road journey. This could also prove to be vital service for both nations’ diaspora and their families. The Sunday flights between Duesseldorf and Maribor have though been scheduled so passengers can in theory fly directly from Germany to Split via Maribor, allowing those from Duesseldorf to alight in Maribor and Slovenians to fly to its ex-Yugoslav cousin. Slated to run between the second week of May and mid October, these flights will serve as a useful litmus test for not only Express Airways but other regional aviational players closely monitoring the services’ popularity from the capital of Slovenia’s east. Montenegro Airlines, as part of a broader strategy to increase its connectivity with strategic cities throughout the former Yugoslavia are also expected to announce a route into Maribor, although there are no details on the Podgorica-based flag carrier’s website to suggest this.