During the course of 2015 Adria Airways operated 17,931 flights from Ljubljana’s Brnik Aerodrome and the likes of Pristina and Tirana, averaging out at a rather ordinary 58.3 travellers per flight. An aggregated total of 1,045,442 passengers over the 12 month period saw load factors marginally drop to 68%.
Despite the 14% year on year spike in passenger numbers load factors decreased due to the Slovenian flag carrier opting to use larger aircraft, in attempts to further slash day to day operating costs. Although the growth in passenger numbers is a cause for celebration there is an ongoing need for the in situ management and incoming owners 4K Invest to identify why, in spite of encouraging data, that the airline is predicted to post losses of €5 million to the end of 2015.
Whilst all airlines can point to anomalies pertaining to specific routes and international tensions as mitigating factors for fluctuating like for like load factors and overall passenger numbers, counterbalancing the pluses and minuses from its 2015 programme doesn’t offer a strong indicator to explain such a significant deficit. Although Adria’s staffing numbers are perceived in some quarters to be too high, especially within its back office function, it did manage to see off heavyweight competition from Swiss to regain its hegemonic grip on the Ljubljana-Zurich route. Economic sanctions imposed on Russia stemming from the Ukraine and Crimea crises have severely staunched the flow of Soviet visitors to many parts of Europe, with the weak Ruble making holidays too expensive for the average Russian. The 75% drop in passenger numbers between Brnik and Sheremetyevo bear this out but whilst this route will have operated at a loss, I doubt it was the major player behind the reported €5 million deficit. Adria did though decide to fall on its sword by shelving its Istanbul route, in the face of such formidable competition from its fellow Star Alliance member Turkish Airlines. Despite returning to Maribor’s Edvard Rusjan Airport for the first time in 15 years Adria’s connection between eastern Slovenia and London Southend isn’t being reintroduced during 2016, an indication that its fleet of aircraft can be used more productively elsewhere. There are individual indicators from where the airline potentially hemorrhaged money but not one definitive cause of the reported, and substantial, operating deficit.
Modest increases in passenger numbers and the amount of flights operated by Adria during 2016 would see the predicted average load factor rise to 62.6 although the current year is expected to be a period of consolidation that amounts to a watching brief for its new German owners. Future operations are expected to concentrate on the Slovenian, Albanian and Kosovan markets, in particular linking family members from the latter two countries with diaspora Gastarbeiter. By continuing to pursue a hybridized business model already set in motion by the soon to be outgoing management, Adria are seeking to increasingly move away from its finite Slovenian market that alone cannot keep it airborne. The expansion of services from destinations outside its borders such as Lodz and the little known Olsztyn is a pragmatic approach to its ongoing financial problems but sadly, all but sounds a death knell for the resumption of flights from Maribor. Despite offering modern, comfortable surroundings for the air passenger the Delavska hranilnica-owned airport is still to punch anywhere near its weight, notwithstanding the faint ripple of optimism effectuated by Express Airlines’ announcement of seasonal services linking Edvard Rusjan Airport with Duesseldorf and Split.