To simply use the word ‘aviation’ is as vague as can be. Furthermore, my ideal scenarios for 2023 in this sector relates to how it affects me, and not the vast majority of frequent flyers. Nevertheless, there are many UK-based travellers who would benefit from my wish list, whilst such a set of hypothetical requests are suggested with Slovenia, the respective destination, in mind.
A direct link between Manchester (or Liverpool) and Ljubljana is (re)introduced. Only a few years have passed since Slovenian flag carrier Adria Airways folded, taking its Manchester route with it. There has subsequently been little appetite for flights based further north than Luton to connect with Slovenia, or simply the owner-operator of Ljubljana’s Brnik Airport has priced out the likes of Ryanair and package-holiday provider TUI from filling the considerable void. If this is the case and without a change of heart and/or relaxation of landing charges, TUI and fellow Lakes and Mountains provider Inghams Hotelplan will have to continue to fly their guests into Salzburg, resulting in a four-hour transfer to the likes of Bohinj, Bled, Kranjska Gora, and the Adriatic Coast. Should Brnik’s owner-operator Fraport and the Slovenian ministries for Economic Development & Technology and Infrastructure be wary of facilitating the arrival of more British tourists, I can with certainty say that those wishing to travel to for example the Julian Alps in the summer will be curious, responsible tourists who are not travelling to get drunk or cause trouble. There will of course always be the exception to the rule, but the same can be said about any nationality of traveller.
Find a viable use for Maribor’s all but mothballed Edvard Rusjan Airport. Far from being set up to fail, Maribor’s fit for purpose but neglected airport could be the gateway to an alternative view of Slovenian tourism which eschews the often crowded Julian Alps, Ljubljana, and Adriatic Coast, instead showcasing much of that which is good in the east of the country. Maribor itself has bona fide credentials as a city break destination, whilst viniculture, thermal spa breaks, and hiking within the Pohorje Massif give further compelling reasons for the airport to be used productively. A lack of a joined up approach by the various NGOs and the state itself at regional and national levels has needlessly brought Maribor’s airport to its knees, but with a considered approach where all that need to be are on the same page, a modest but viable amount of tourist traffic should be able to flow through Edvard Rusjan to complement services for sports teams, guest workers, and foreign students.
If not Brink, why not Maribor? Should the likes of TUI, Inghams Hotelplan, and Balkan Holidays continue to not be able to fly in all their guests to Ljubljana, why not pursue an alternative airport within Slovenia? Flying for example from Bristol or Leeds Bradford to Maribor would involve a longer transfer than if connecting with Ljubljana, but to me at least it is far preferable to land in the country one is about to spend a week or two in rather than a neighbouring state. There is not only an immediate connection with the country, but it also portrays a better image than one that suggests guests cannot be initially accommodated without the assistance of a third country. I have no doubt that Maribor would be far cheaper to do business with, and would similar to Innsbruck’s Kranebitten in the summer be a quiet, and quick to exit from facility.
Could Air Serbia be an unlikely saviour? Currently embarking on a large expansion of its services within Europe and beyond, of all the airlines based within the former Yugoslavia Air Serbia is undoubtedly leading the way. It was recently highlighted that Manchester is one of Belgrade’s most unserved destinations but has a large number of indirect traffic with the Serbian capital, which itself sets the scene for a future direct connection between the two cities. However, could Air Serbia introduce a Manchester-Ljubljana-Belgrade service, in effect killing two birds with one stone?
Does Fraport and the Slovenian government want to facilitate tourist flights for Slovenians at the expense of bringing in visitors to Slovenia? Or can there be a holy alliance between the two? Another round of talks with a view to Slovenia subsidising new routes and/or those lost since the demise of Adria Airways shouldn’t excite too many in the aviation community only because similar schemes have in the past, for what ever reason, failed to bring about significant positive change. There will be many routes that Slovenians have to cross the border for to access via the likes of Graz, Venice, and Zagreb, and it is surely with these in mind where much of the attention will be focused. However, only when anything from the latest round of subsidies comes to fruition will the aviational priorities of all those concerned be apparent, but without encouraging more flights from different UK airports through realistic and advantageous financial terms with or without subsidies it will remain almost impossible for the many and not the few to visit Slovenia, instead continuing to drive custom to the more accessible Switzerland and Austria.