In the post-Adria Airways era and as the world continues to emerge from the devastating and all-encompassing effects of the novel coronavirus, Slovenia continues to identify the challenges it must overcome to reconnect the Central European state with the wider world. As though has become abundantly clear: identifying is one thing; overcoming is quite another.

Instead of simply allowing the market to find its own level – something which is difficult to accurately achieve in the absence of a national carrier – the Slovenian state has finally taken steps to artificially bring about greater connectivity to benefit Ljubljana’s Brnik-based airport – it would seem that both Maribor and Portoroz will not initially benefit or at all – by subsidising foreign airlines to either reactivate routes that had previously been discontinued, or create new opportunities that make sense for Slovenian travellers, those wishing to holiday in the country, and the diaspora of neighbouring states, particularly Croatia.

The subsidies will in effect contribute towards airlines’ fees for using Brnik, an expensive airport to use especially since Fraport became its owner/operator. There are few if any surprises amongst the fifteen routes but one glaring omission is the failure to increase connectivity from a pitifully low base of flights between the UK and Slovenia. It has though transpired that there is a reason for this.

It seems that the state’s subsidy deal could only be with airlines based in the European Union. This would for example rule out Jet2 or British Airways, but did not preclude the likes of Wizz Air or Ryanair from engaging with the subsidy application process to for example introduce services linking the likes of Manchester, Liverpool, Belfast, and Glasgow with the Slovenian capital. Both airlines, whilst not UK-based, operate a huge network of flights from a number of UK airports but several possible scenarios include that they didn’t even apply, applied but failed the audition, or flights into Brexit UK albeit by non-domiciled airlines fell into something or a grey area. It should also be remembered that Slovenia is the only EU member state that does not have a business relationship with Ryanair.

It is therefore difficult to see how the situation will ever change for travellers living north of London who wish to fly directly to Slovenia. The Leeds-based Jet2 now operate summer flights between Manchester and other English cities to Innsbruck, a direct competitor for the hearts and minds of lakes and mountains afficionados. Why therefore the airline cannot do the same for Ljubljana isn’t clear, but as a budget airline they may feel that passing on pricey landing fees to customers somewhat undermines the definition of the niche in which they operate.

The loss of Adria Airways was keenly felt within Slovenia and beyond its borders. The glory days of two flights a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays, between Manchester and Ljubljana to facilitate Thomson(TUI) and Inghams customers as well as independent travellers seem so far ago now to have almost never existed but this is not an aviational example of the Mandela Effect. To go from such a regular service which albeit dropped to once a week during Adria’s latter days to absolutely nothing is as unnecessary as it is ridiculous. It has made me wonder if Slovenia actually wants guests from the UK? Bad behaviour has sadly been noted in the past when stag parties latched onto Ljubljana’s attractiveness, but those more concerned with the Julian Alps and Slovenia’s incredible architecture, green credentials, and history are about as ideal visitors as can be imagined.

It is too late for the summer of 2023, but surely EasyJet, Ryanair and/or Jet2 can find a way to connect the rest of the UK, in other words anywhere north of Luton, with Slovenia? The will has to be there at both ends of the deal, but it can be guaranteed that if such routes were introduced the demand for seats would be high. Without any indication from the relevant stakeholders it is therefore difficult to understand why this situation continues to persist.

Source material:

Ex Yugoslav Aviation: