Will Slovenia Replace Its Failed National Carrier Adria Airways?

Slovenia is missing its national carrier since the demise of Adria. Despite members of the Lufthansa Group rushing to fill the gaps in the schedules, Adria Airways was more than just a mode of transportation. As the nation mourns the loss of a national treasure, we ask whether Slovenia will look to replace Adria, and if so, how?

new slovenian national carrier
Could a new Slovenian national carrier fill the shoes of Adria? Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia

Already come a long way

According to Ex-Yu Aviation News today, the Slovenian government is indeed looking to replace Adria, and could be moving closer to making this dream a reality. The country’s Minister for Economic Development and Technology, Zdravko Počivalšek said that the government is looking to form a partnership with a foreign airline to establish a national carrier.

Mr. Počivalšek commented that talks with their intended partner have already come a long way. He commented,

“We are working on establishing a new company, a new Adria. The government has two options. One is to let the aviation market take its own course and the other is to try and re-establish a national airline in cooperation with a foreign strategic partner. I support the latter because I am convinced that Slovenia’s connectivity will never be as good without our own airline. In any case, the state will have to spend a certain amount of money in the aviation sector on an annual basis. Therefore, the government will look at these numbers and make a final decision relatively soon”.

Slovenian national Carrier
Lufthansa – not interested. Photo: Lufthansa

Of course, any new carrier would have to be compliant with EU rules and regulations. While the Slovenian government has not revealed details of who might be involved in the discussions, one partner that we know is not in the running is Lufthansa.

Despite requests from the government, Lufthansa has made its stance clear. The German group is not interested in setting up a new national carrier, even though its network clearly has interests in the region. Počivalšek commented,

“Lufthansa never expressed interest in being part of a new Slovenian airline. Lufthansa is Europe’s most important carrier with whom we want to coordinate our plans. All the conversations I’ve had with their CEO were with the intention of presenting our ideas to them. I can only say that Lufthansa will support all our plans aimed at revitalising our national carrier and it joining Star Alliance in the future. If we decide against setting up a new airline, Lufthansa will do its best to help cover the aviation sector in Slovenia, in line with their interests”.

The significance for Slovenia

According to Mr Počivalšek, Adria used to bring in some 400,000 tourists to the country every year. Tourism in Ljubljana and the surrounding areas was somewhat reliant on the air connections provided by the carrier. Business and political standings have been negatively affected too.

Slovenian national Carrier
Adria was important to the local economy and national identity. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia

Then, there are the jobless ex-Adria employees to consider. At its peak in 2009, the airline employed over 700 people. By the time it shut up shop, this number was well below 400. Small numbers indeed, but in a population of only just over two million, significant nonetheless. Počivalšek assured the future of these displaced workers, saying,

“If we start up a new airline, we will of course be counting on former Adria employees, which is why we need to make a decision on this matter as soon as possible. The key to our final decision will be our financial calculations, and if it all adds up, we will set up the company with a partner.”

Taking into account the importance of a national carrier for both Slovenia’s economy and pride, it’s unsurprising that the government has its heart set on reviving its own airline. Any new partnership deal to establish a flag carrier would undoubtedly be sweetened by government subsidies, but will it be enough?

Aerotelegraph reports the minister saying that he would like ‘Air Slovenia’, as the replacement carrier is being affectionately called, to begin services in February 2020. However, a lot of work needs to be done between then and now, so the final outcome remains to be seen.