A strong start to 2017 for Ljubljana’s Brnik Airport could be an early indicator that passenger numbers are set to smash through the aerodrome’s record high posted in 2008, when 1.673 million travellers passed through the Fraport-owned aerodrome.

Despite the double digit spike in passenger numbers during January and February, there is still significant room for improvement during Slovenia’s winter sports season. Although styled as the alpine paradise which it undoubtedly is, a continued dearth of charter flights from the United Kingdom means skiers from the north of England have to fly into Salzburg and embark on a four hour transfer to the likes of Bohinj and Kranjska Gora. Furthermore, the rejuvenated frontier resort of Bovec and Maribor Pohorje are overlooked, despite the former affording enthusiasts with Slovenia’s highest and most snow-sure skiing on Mount Kanin; the latter being the location of January’s annual Golden Fox FIS World Cup slalom event.

Fraport have to some degree reduced their reliance on flag-carrier Adria Airways – although approximately 60% of all passengers using Brnik have arrived or departed on a flight operated by the former state-owned airline. For too long the fluctuating fortunes of Adria were seen as a barometer of Brnik’s health – something Fraport sought to remedy after their acquisition of Slovenia’s primary airport. Indeed, until relatively recently the long-term viability of Adria was called into question, both prior to and initially after its sale to 4K Invest. Having kept it airborne in every sense of the word, its Munich-based owner have ambitious plans for the future, including a route into Tehran, the Iranian capital. Where routes overlap with other, leaner competitors Adria have taken the pragmatic decision to reduce capacity or scrap services altogether, ensuring the most efficacious use possible of its 12 leased jets. It is however unclear if its Iranian service is financially viable, should reports that ‘planes used on the Ljubljana-Tehran route need to be insured at both destinations, and not just in Slovenia. Nevertheless, the previous negativity surrounding Adria has been replaced with cautious optimism, notwithstanding an ongoing embroglio between management and its pilots, who are demanding what in theory sounds a reasonable 1% increase in salaries.

As either a final destination or transit point, Brnik is an ideal gateway to Slovenia’s capital and varied alpine, coastal, and Karst landscapes. Equally, it is increasingly regarded as a convenient hub for those travelling to Western Europe and further afield. There is though much work to be done for Joze Pucnik Airport to operate closer to its potential capacity, with gaps in the aforementioned snowsports sector and winter markets niche just two areas ripe for exponential growth. As is so often the case in the modern age of aviation, much will depend on whether Ryanair can one day reach an agreement with Fraport that could finally see the Irish-based budget carrier fly into Slovenia – the only EU country that currently isn’t party to its unique low cost business model.

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