Rumours of Ryanair finally taking the plunge into the aviation market of the only European Union country they are currently not operating within continue to abound, although there is as of yet no firm proof that the Irish-based Low Cost Carrier is set to reignite its interest in Slovenia, in particular it’s capital Ljubljana, after a disastrous flirtation with second-city Maribor almost a decade ago.
Whilst many observers, myself included, initially assumed that Ryanair would introduce services to Ljubljana from British airports not currently operating flights into Slovenia, there is certainly a possibility it might instead be looking to serve the Slovenian population with flights to sunshine destinations and some German cities. It is though long overdue for a carrier other than Adria Airways , Wizz Air, and Easyjet to provide flights for those who reside further north than Luton. Although Adria continue to operate their longstanding June – September service between Manchester and Ljubljana, seats are very hard to come by unless passengers are travelling to Slovenia with Thomson Lakes & Mountains and Inghams. Once Adria’s twice weekly Manchester service has ended for the season there are no flights into Ljubljana from northern England and Scottish airports, a glaring gap in the market that has continually been overlooked. It would therefore be of tremendous benefit to travellers from the impoverished northern wastelands if an all year round service from, for example Liverpool, could be introduced. I feel at this point a Ryanair route from Manchester would be unlikely, unless Adria feel the need to discontinue its historic service between the two countries. Liverpool would though be a logical choice; an autumn to spring schedule would accommodate the obvious need of flights for skiers and Christmas markets enthusiasts, and crucially wouldn’t overlap with Adria’s Manchester service.
Elsewhere, established carrier Wizz Air will from this autumn significantly increase capacity on its London Luton – Ljubljana route, with the introduction of the largest plane in its fleet – a 230-seat Airbus A321. Wizz will operate four flights a week between the Bedfordshire airport and the Slovenian capital, in what is obviously a strong commitment to the route in which the airline has shown great confidence, despite the Hungarian-based carrier already having strong route competition from London Stansted and Gatwick. It is therefore a shame that no airline has seen fit to provide Britons living further north with such an array of carriers and airports to enable direct passage into Slovenia. I have previously travelled in the wintertime between Manchester and Ljubljana via Zurich – hardly an ideal scenario for a short break. Whether Wizz Air and/or Ryanair will either, both, or neither branch further afield into Britain to facilitate a much easier all year round service into Slovenia for far more of the population than just those living in the Greater London region remains for now to be seen, although there at last seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel.
All the while Ljubljana’s Brnik Airport continues to see an improvement in passenger numbers, with data to the end of January 2017 showing a 21% spike in travellers using the Fraport-owned aerodrome compared to year on year figures for 2016. Although many new services for 2017, both slated and rumoured, have yet to commence and are therefore not included in Brnik’s January growth, there appears to be grounds for an exponential surge in passenger numbers should not only the Ryanair and Wizz Air stories come to pass, but also if Adria’s interest in the Iranian and Ukrainian markets bear fruit. Despite foreign carriers representing a large increase in aircraft movements at Brnik, Adria still account for around 60% of traffic at Joze Pucnik Airport – a healthy mix that Fraport sought on their acquisition of Brnik, rather than an over-reliance on Adria who at the time had a justified reputation of lurching from one crisis to the next. Since denationalisation of the flag-carrier and its purchase by 4K Invest, Adria seem to have turned the corner from what at one point looked to be certain oblivion. A resurgent Adria can only be good for all parties, including Brnik and Fraport, but whilst it doesn’t own any of the twelve jets within its fleet, a lingering nervousness will inevitably continue to persist. It is somehow difficult to identify with an airline, despite its reputation for good standards of service, that takes deliver of planes wet-leased from their owners and adheres its familiar logo, name, and Star Alliance livery to its ‘new’ jet. This feels like the actions of an airline as far from the established and respected name Adria have built up as one can get. If this though is the one and only way Adria can remain in the air, until perhaps the day once more arrives when it can again begin to build up its own fleet, then surely this is a price worth paying for such an emblematic brand synonymous with independent Slovenia that punched way above its weight long before seceding from a disintegrating Yugoslavia.
Source material courtesy of:
Ex Yugoslav Aviation blog: