By Ian McMurtry
Slovenia gets European Commission Approval for Additional Flight Incentives
The European Commission has officially approved the Slovenian government’s 2022 plan of providing financial incentives for additional routes to the country. Slovenia, which plans to offer seven million euros to airlines, is looking to re-establish itself in the post-pandemic aviation industry.
The limitations to the economic incentive will be that no airline receives more than €2.5 million per airline and that the money will not be accessible till June 30. The country had previously allocated €3 million Euros per year during the pandemic-laden 2020 and 2021 but finds the development lacking as the country’s annual flyers are not recovering like other parts of Europe.
In a public statement, the Slovenian Ministry of Economic Development and Technology noted the benefit for Slovenians going forward, saying, “the purpose of the tender is to maintain the existing schedule operated by international airlines, to encourage the resumption of suspended flights due to the consequences of the pandemic, and to encourage new airlines to fly to Slovenia. Lacking a national carrier, Slovenia is currently experiencing a very slow recovery”.
The country has not recovered following the collapse of flag carrier Adria Airways in 2019 when the airline declared bankruptcy and suspended all operations. The airline had operated a fleet of Airbus A319s, Bombardier CRJ-700s and CRJ-900s and Saab 2000s that allowed it to link its hub in Ljubljana with most of Europe. The airline was a member of the Star Alliance, which further expanded the carrier’s network through fellow carriers like Turkish, SAS and the Lufthansa Group family of airlines.
The only airline expected to start service to Ljubljana in the near future is Transavia, which will link the city with Paris-Orly airport on April 14, 2022, using Boeing 737s. The rest of the airlines currently servicing the Slovenian capital are a mix of legacy brands like British Airways, LOT Polish Airlines, Swiss, Lufthansa and Air France alongside low-cost competition like Wizzair and easyJet.
Most notably missing from the Slovenian capital’s list of airlines is Irish low-cost carrier RyanAir. The Boeing 737 operator has been asked time and time again to consider flying to Slovenia, but the airline has stood its ground and says that its bases in Trieste, Italy and Zagreb, Croatia cover the country enough that direct flights are not necessary. Conversations have occurred most recently in the winter of 2021, with the airline last month announcing that no deal could be reached and that Ljubljana in February and the airline would still focus on other aspects of its route network.
Since the collapse of Adria and the impact of COVID-19, Ljubljana has been a shadow of its former self. Passenger numbers fell from 1.7 million in 2019 to 288,235 in 2020 as both impacts grappled the nation’s passenger count between the two years. 2021 saw some returns with 421,934 passengers flying through over the twelve calendar months. 2022 has shown continued small gains, with a 5% increase in January traffic showing some promise. However, the airport is still well off its former days of Adria and hopes that the increased incentive will return the airport to its former self.