Adria Airways’ tacit core strategy of concentrating on its ‘bread and butter’ routes from Ljubljana’s Brnik Airport has been further underlined by an increased commitment by the Slovenian flag carrier to extend services into its fellow former-Yugoslav republics.

Despite there always being a wide disparity between the relatively prosperous northern Yugoslavia and the comparatively impoverished south – engendering resentment that money earned in Slovenia was used to shore up the likes of Bosnia, Kosovo, and Serbia – historic links between the ‘South Slavs’ and the more Teutonic-leaning Slovenia have nevertheless been maintained and if anything bolstered, a fraternal bond that an albeit imperfect Yugoslav alliance couldn’t break.

Flights between Ljubljana and Pristina, Skopje, Sarajevo, and Podgorica have always seen high passenger load factors, often serving as vital links for diasporan remittance workers in Slovenia and their home countries in the Balkans. Adria Airways have of late altered their schedules to reflect the growing demand for these flights; as an example its Ljubljana-Podgorica service will by the end of June have increased from four weekly flights to seven. Sarajevo, Skopje, and the Kosovan capital will also receive additional flights from Brnik.

Adria’s summer timetable is the most critical part of the airline’s strategy – one which ensures liquidity levels generated during the warmer months can help offset its traditionally fallow winter season. Although a policy of ‘making hay while the sun shines’ does make operational sense, a lack of imagination in many of its recent winter schedules ensures an over-reliance on finance generated in the summer will continue until Slovenia, specifically Brnik and Adria, assist British winter-sports aficionados with direct access to the country’s slopes via Ljubljana, instead of perpetuating the status quo where skiers from the north of England and Scotland travelling with, for example, Crystal and Inghams have to fly in and out of Salzburg. This circuitous route to the slopes can result in a four hour transfer to the likes of Bohinj. Adria’s longstanding twice weekly service between Manchester and Ljubljana during the summer can surely be replicated in the winter – or even reduced to one flight per week – to allow winter visitors to take advantage of good value skiing in the established resorts of Bovec and Kranjska Gora, to name but two.

Already acknowledged as cyclical, Adria’s operations need to be more consistent throughout the year to not only address the untapped ski market but also a winter markets/city breaks sector popular throughout Europe. If Bratislava, Budapest, and the Baltic States can take advantage of this lucrative tourist niche, why not Maribor and Ljubljana, too?

The one fly in the ointment potentially stymieing obvious areas ripe for exploitation by Adria is its lack of owned aircraft. Its fleet of twelve planes are leased from various sources, although some jets at its disposal were previously owned by Adria but were sold and leased back during some of the airline’s darker financial days prior to its denationalisation. In theory at least, leased aircraft can be called back by their lessors – with contracts between both parties often being predicated on the summer charter arm of an airline’s operations. It will therefore be more difficult to plan as far ahead as a forthcoming winter season where a raft of new routes, a potentially risky strategy itself, could be discontinued should a carrier lack sufficient aircraft to fulfill its timetabled obligations.

Adria find themselves in a cleft stick of a situation. On the one hand the 4K Invest-owned airline wish to grow proportionally but this would necessitate a sensible, cautious strategy that whilst maintaining the airline’s recent stability, would hardly propel it forward to where it potentially should be. Should 4K seek to pursue a higher-risk plan of action the rewards could be greater, but the chances of failure and threat of liquidation are commensurately greater. For Adria to find a rightful position amongst the middle-ranking regional airlines its status surely warrants, a middle way will need to be brokered by its strategists. A firm commitment to diversifying its winter programme would be a start, although for the time being this might be a flight plan too treacherous to be contemplated. In this sense though – will tomorrow ever come?

Source material and further information:

Ex Yugoslav Aviation News: