Adria Airways have confirmed that flights operated by the Slovenian flag carrier from Maribor’s Edvard Rusjan Airport will not recommence during 2016, dashing hopes that its 2015 route into London Southend, its first service from Maribor in fifteen years, will be reintroduced for the summer season. This decision was presumably made before Adria’s new owners, the German/Luxembourg-based company 4K Invest, took the reins following their January acquisition of the airline and suggests for the immediate period after privatisation that the new management team will broadly implement the pre-denationalization strategy, before gradually implementing their own methodologies once passenger load factors have been assessed.
This decision, whilst not totally unexpected, has been greeted with incredulity by some observers who see the albeit finite Slovenian market being neglected by Adria, enabling it to instead concentrate resources on its burgeoning network of hubs outside of its own frontiers. With flights operated under the Adria Airways banner from locations including Pristina, Tirana, Lodz and the little-known Polish city Olstzyn, it again sees Maribor’s modern airport chronically underused. Adria have also taken over the timetable of the now defunct Estonian Air(EA), whose successor the Nordic Aviation Group have enlisted the Brnik-based airline for “commercial and logistical support” whilst using EA’s fleet of aircraft. It is understandable that Adria are keen to access new markets away from a small Slovenian population but there is undoubtedly room for a healthy mix of pan-European diversification that complements flights from Ljubljana AND Maribor. Whilst the German airline Express Airways will operate flights between Maribor and Duesseldorf, including one return flight per week linking Germany with the Croatian city of Split via Maribor, it appears strange to me that the recently announced Tallinn-Rijeka service operated under the Nordic Aviation Group(NAG) aegis(remember, ostensibly by Adria Airways) doesn’t visit Maribor or Ljubljana first. It would surely make more sense for Adria’s tie up with NAG to involve, where geographically applicable, a courtesy stop at either MB or LJU, much in the same way those from Duesseldorf and Split have the chance to visit Slovenia instead of each other.
Express Airways’ services from Maribor will test the waters of viability before other destinations are added, although the Delavska hranilnica-owned airport will do well not to place all its eggs in one basket with an airline not of the standing and longevity of Ryanair or the Hungarian Wizz Air, with whom talks are ongoing regarding a future alliance. Whether the loss of the London route will be mitigated by flights to Duesseldorf and Split remains to be seen although a service into the English capital, however relatively obscure and distant the destination airport, carries an important cachet for an aerodrome of limited ambitions, even though in 2015 Maribor’s tourist trade saw little tangible benefit from it.