Ljubljana’s Brnik Airport has announced through owner-operator Fraport of its intention to construct an additional and second terminal, slated for completion by 2020.

Predicated on increasing passenger flow through the airport, especially at peak periods, Brnik will be able to process two and a half times as many travellers than the current 500 per hour figure. For what normally represents a pleasant experience on the flight side of the terminal, check-in facilities are at times shown up to be inadequate – both in space and the quantity of check-in desks. Designed to not only handle greater passenger numbers Fraport are also seeking to do so in a way that avoids bottlenecks that can often incommode the more modest amount of travellers using Brnik today. A relatively modest figure of €16 million has been earmarked for the project and whilst aviation is one of the modest expensive business sectors, an amount such as this is still significant but proportionate to a country the size of Slovenia, as well as the reach of Fraport’s sensible ambitions.

The obligatory large-scale duty free shop and premium lounge form part of the scheme; the latter offering a pointer to the class of passenger(and flight destination) the new terminal is hoping to attract. Indeed, flights operated by Low Coat Carriers and charter services will be confined to Brnik’s existing terminal – routes where margins are narrower and that are not usually commensurate with business lounges or priority boarding.

The new terminal will be constructed toward the municipality of Sencur, who recently benefited from the creation of a natural vegetation barrier designed to absorb noise generated from the ever-increasing amount of air traffic using Brnik. Consisting of 13,000 bushes and trees, the seedlings will in time return the area to something resembling the pre-construction days of Ljubljana Airport, which was completed in 1973. It is presumed that the new terminal will not encroach into and therefore necessitate the removal or rezoning of Sencur’s embryonic forest, although the 15 days that elapsed between both announcements would suggest the prospective new-build was already an open secret between Fraport, Sencur, and Slovenia’s Ministry of Infrastructure prior to the 20th April press conference. Such a scheme does though once more underscore Slovenia’s status as being a nonpareil in its commitment to environmental protection and mitigation.

Fraport have also used this opportunity to change the title of their Slovenian arm of operations to Fraport Slovenija, giving the German-based business a more bespoke and less generic identity in Ljubljana that appears to have cemented its long-term commitment to Brnik. In the face of stiff competition from a panoply of regional rivals Fraport have needed to boost Brnik’s profile to passengers and carriers – both established and potential. Whilst it is acknowledged the leakage of Slovenian travellers to the likes of Zagreb and Graz is currently difficult to staunch, it is hoped a greater raft of routes and a vastly improved flow from check-in to the aircraft’s steps will draw passengers away from the airports of neighbouring countries who currently offer greater possibilities to cross-border travellers.

Although rumours have abounded for years of Brnik’s desire(and need) to expand, I do though wonder if Fraport’s plans have been expedited by the curve ball delivered to the Slovenian and indeed, central European aviation market by the acquisition of Maribor’s Edvard Rusjan Airport by Chinese backers who fully intend to bankroll a fleet of up to fifteen Airbus A330’s to fly passengers from the Far East to the eastern extremes of Slovenia. Whether this scheme is already fanciful is debatable and one that will ultimately lacks the wings to succeed but it will nevertheless have aroused curiosity within Fraport’s Slovenian headquarters, and, perhaps just a little trepidation.

Some will say Slovenia is long overdue a comprehensive review of how far below its aviational potential the country and its two main airports are operating. As is so often found in many areas of life where stasis has for too long been accepted as the norm change can often be too much, too quickly. Will there be business casualties along the way? Possibly. If though the eventual outcomes at both Maribor and Brnik create a leaner, flexible but competitive aviation market ‘on message’ with its customer base, Slovenia’s unique geographic position at the heart of Continental Europe should see the country not only finally realise its potential but rather punch firmly above its weight.

Source material and further information:

Ex Yugoslav Aviation News: http://www.exyuaviation.com/2017/04/ljubljana-to-outline-terminal-expansion.html

Ljubljana Airport website: http://www.lju-airport.si/en/press/7644