The addition of an easyJet-operated Manchester-Innsbruck route commencing in December is a boost for winter-sports aficionados but by belatedly replacing the presence at Ringway and the Tyrolean capital of the now defunct Monarch Airlines, the Luton-based airline is simply filling a considerable void rather than in real-terms representing a net-gain of services between the two destinations.

Primarily marketed as a winter destination, Innsbruck, and the countless resorts served by its Kranebitten airport, continually fail to attract the attention of airlines during the summer season, when an albeit different demographic descend upon western Austria but who invariably gravitate towards the same regions of the Tirol synonymous with the ski and boarding scenes. If one is unfortunate enough to having no choice but to rely upon Manchester Airport to directly access Austria, accepting the package-holiday route to do so can be a stultifying experience; one which inevitably corrals travellers towards where the brochures believe you should be staying. There are obvious merits to being met at the airport and having all the arrangements done for you, but the narrow choices often associated with the same, pile it high and sell it cheap(ish) hotels and a length of stay heavily restricted by hackneyed Saturday-to-Saturday durations does remove the last vestiges of any sense of a pioneering spirit associated with your time in the mountains.

It is of course possible to access Innsbruck from Manchester via Frankfurt or Vienna, using the ever-efficient Lufthansa or its subsidiary, Austrian Airlines. With several flights a day utilizing one of these alternatives exponentially increases the options for a longer stay, and one on your own terms rather than being exposed to the feeling of being herded through Innsbruck’s otherwise pleasant, but uncomfortably small airport at peak times. The trump card up the sleeves of package-operators is though the fleet of coaches waiting in the airport’s car-park, primed to whisk travellers to all points of the Tirol – a feature invariably included in the price of your holiday.

It is surprising how Low Cost Carriers(LCC) have so far failed to exploit the lucrative Lakes and Mountains summer season market. Traditionally better educated and with greater disposal income, those who venture to the Alps in what is often termed the low season in some resorts represent the opportunity for high load factors that are far from guaranteed on traditional package routes, for example between the UK and Spain, where competition is fierce in the extreme. Another popular alpine location, the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, also suffers from being exceptionally under-served north of Luton; travellers can now only directly access the “sunny side of the Alps” once a week from Manchester between June and September. There is currently no service in the winter between the north of England and Ljubljana’s Brnik aerodrome.

There is therefore little to explain why scheduled LCC flights from Gatwick, Stansted, and London Luton into Ljubljana are not viewed as viable further north, where customers in significant swathes of England and the whole of Scotland and Wales represent untapped market potential. I very much doubt many from the perceived impoverished, frozen wastelands of the north venture down south to access Slovenia – doing so would significantly eat away at precious time from their holidays. Although London is perennially a big draw for Slovenians it is unrealistic to assume the rest of the UK, in particular Manchester and Liverpool with the significant global reach associated to their respective music and football scenes, isn’t of interest to tourists. The ongoing, tacit  refusal to address the issue of chronically under-served, overlooked locations and an associated lucrative demographic market therefore continues to baffle.

Elsewhere, the preoccupation with London, in this case Stansted, continues with the recent announcement from the Ryanair majority-owned airline Laudamotion, of a raft of new services commencing this winter from Innsbruck. The inclusion of Stansted as a destination lacks imagination but the addition of Dublin is a positive move for those residing away from the southeast. By overlooking Manchester Laudamotion are effectively acknowledging that with easyJet filling the void vacated by Monarch, the Innsbruck route will be approaching full capacity when added to the many winter package-providers between Ringway and Kranebitten. There is still no thought for the summer season, where Laudamotion could successfully challenge the Lakes and Mountains tour operators/Flybe hegemony with a twice-weekly schedule.

As a regional capital and indeed, the seat of Slovenia’s government, both Innsbruck and Ljubljana remain wonderful but relatively inaccessible locations to many, not the few. Coupled with the significant alpine hinterland enjoyed by the pair, there can be few excuses why the two countries continue to be overlooked as winter sports and city-break destinations for those living in the north.

Source material and further information:

Tiroler Tageszeitung: and