A deal to connect Irish Low Cost Carrier Ryanair with Ukraine once more exemplifies the inability and/or unwillingness of the pertinent parties to bring the Dublin-based airline back to Slovenia, after its ill-fated flirtation with eastern city Maribor foundered a decade ago.
Labelled with the inauspicious title of being the only European Union state that isn’t served by Ryanair, Slovenia, and in particular its primary airport at Brnik, continue to show little sign of this imbalance being counterweighted at any point soon. News though of the carrier plunging into one of Europe’s biggest under-served markets would suggest that it is dedicating its fleet’s spare capacity towards a corner of the former Soviet Union where until now, barely 1 in every 20 citizens could afford airline travel. Far from testing the water with an experimental, non-committal service between London Stansted and Kiev’s Boryspil hub, Ryanair have shown a large commitment to connecting Ukraine with various central European cities, Vilnius, and indeed Stansted through a total of 46 weekly flights from Kiev and Lviv.
Access to Ukraine’s large captive audience represents a major coup for Ryanair, who have been sufficiently emboldened by what appears to be a loosening of the virtual stranglehold that flag-carrier Ukraine International Airlines(UIA) previously held over the country’s commercial services. A recently announced five-year expansion plan by UIA – that includes a welcome Manchester-Kiev service scheduled to commence in 2020 – does therefore seem to be a less than coincidental riposte to the watering down of its aviational monopoly.
Where then does this leave Slovenia within Ryanair’s thought processes? Already served by Low Cost Carriers Transavia, Wizz Air, and Easyjet, Ljubljana have hardly been overlooked by budget airlines but the country’s proximity to Graz, Trieste, Venice, and Zagreb ensures its citizens’ travel ambitions are hardly stymied by geography and being Ryanair-lite. Logistically speaking adding Ljubljana to its roster would hardly be a problem to Ryanair, although it would now seem to have bigger fish to fry. Although an obvious danger of mixing metaphors, one does wonder if the Ryanair-Slovenia ship has now sailed.
An ongoing paucity of options for travellers situated north of London Luton who wish to fly directly to Slovenia shows little sign of being addressed. While in theory an ideal route for Ryanair, a Manchester-Ljubljana service becoming reality now seems to be a dream yet further distant. Liberalization of the Ukrainian aviation market has helped to some extent dispel nagging doubts of corruption that were only serving to prevent the overwhelming majority of the country’s citizens from venturing further afield. Some will argue that it is a shame that for this to happen the likes of Ryanair have in effect become the answer, although in most cases it does represent a tolerable way to travel between points a and b.
Slovenia and the north of England’s lack of options to access it are not Ryanair’s problem; it is though hoped that one day an airline will step into the breach and if nothing else, pick up the slack that Adria Airway’s waning commitment to Manchester has created.
Source material and further information:
The Economist(UK): www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2018/03/lviv-another-day
Ex Yugoslav Aviation: www.exyuaviation.com/2018/03/ukraine-international-plans-zagreb.html