Two Years Have Passed Since Adria’s Bankruptcy

It is the second anniversary of Adria Airways declaring bankruptcy, although the airline’s bankruptcy was in the making for much longer. The former Slovenian flag carrier is greatly missed, with Slovenia now being Europe’s worst-performing aviation market.

Adria Airways has been bankrupt for two years, but its bankruptcy was in the making for much longer. Photo: Getty Images

September 2019: Adria declares bankruptcy

Simple Flying’s coverage of Adria Airways’ collapse dates back to June 2019, when the first signs of an imminent bankruptcy emerged and when we described it as “looking more likely by the day.” The bankruptcy eventually happened on 30th September 2019.

At the time, Adria was still fully operational, but it was scrapping aircraft orders and rapidly trimming its route network. The airline also had severe daily delays on its charter and scheduled services due to a lack of aircraft. Flying with Adria in the summer of 2019 was usually highly chaotic.

Exemplifying the chaos of Adria’s last few years, the airline opened a hub in October 2018 in Paderborn in Germany. From there, it flew to Zurich and Vienna as a Lufthansa feeder and to Southend, but these operations were abruptly discontinued in a single tweet because Adira could not fund them. Absurdly, it was using a wet-leased ATR for these routes, even while it had a fleet of parked Saab aircraft that were not flying at all because the airline had no pilots to fly them.

Adria was even the subject of a criminal investigation in Switzerland because 11 million Euros disappeared from the accounts of Darwin Airline between the time Adria acquired it and the moment it declared bankruptcy.

The year it declared bankruptcy, Adria ordered 15 SSJ-100. which were due for delivery in April 2019. However, Sukhoi unilaterally canceled the order after “responsible financial institutions” examined Adria’s financial report they recommended the cancellation “to prevent possible losses.”

Inex Adria Airways Bremen Ljubljana DC-9
An Inex Adria Airways McDonnell Douglas DC-9 aircraft in Bremen, on a charter flight from Yugoslavia in 1978. Photo: Oxfordian Kissuth via Wikimedia

A 58-year old airline gone bankrupt

As we outlined in this lengthy piece, Adria Airways is an airline with a rich history, serving as the leisure airline of Yugoslavia and the national airline of Slovenia across its lifetime. We also tracked the whereabouts of the airline’s 12 McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 aircraft, two of which crashed.

After it was privatized, in its last few years of operations, Adria positioned itself as a Lufthansa Group feeder. In its final decade of operations, it was flying several daily flights from Ljubljana to Brussels, Frankfurt, Zurich, Vienna, and Munich. At the time, Slovenia was the only country in all of Europe not to have a single flight from any of the Lufthansa Group airlines, and not even Eurowings.

Since 2010, Adria was also a feeder airline for Lufthansa from Tirana in Albania, feeding Frankfurt. Since 2014, it had been feeding Lufthansa’s hubs of Munich and Frankfurt from Pristina in Kosovo. It was also feeding other Lufthansa Group hubs from both Tirana and Pristina via its own hub in Ljubljana.

Since then, Pristina has become a Eurowings base, and it has seen so much seat capacity growth from SWISS that it saw Edelweiss A340 aircraft land there regularly this summer and in 2019.

Meanwhile, since Adria’s collapse, Tirana has replaced Adria with a new national airline, Air Albania, in a joint venture with Turkish Airlines.

Adria Airways
Albania and Kosovo have moved on from Adria, but Slovenia has not. Photo: Getty Images

At first, the effects of the bankruptcy did not seem too strong

Following Adria’s declaration of bankruptcy, its assets were slowly sold off. Air Serbia acquired two Airbus aircraft and the Adria Airways brand was sold for $40,000. Adria’s pilots went elsewhere, from Croatia Airlines in Zagreb and Lauda Europe in Vienna, to launching their own airlines.

Adria’s AOC was purchased in an auction by a Montenegrin businessman dubbed as The King of Bananas but it was ultimately canceled in June this year.

Croatia’s charter airline Trade Air opened a base in Ljubljana to operate charter flights to holiday destinations this summer.

However, air capacity to Slovenia has not been replaced. Lufthansa Group airlines launched a whole new network of routes out of Ljubljana immediately following its collapse, but the seat capacity offered on these was just a fraction of what Adria used to offer.

Similarly, lots of foreign airlines flocked to Slovenia to offer air capacity between their bases and Ljubljana, but this was again nowhere near enough to replace Adria’s capacity. British Airways and Montenegro Airlines doubled their frequencies to the country, Iberia launched flights from Madrid, Wizz Air returned just weeks after pulling out the month after Adria declared bankruptcy.

Adria Airways A319
Two of Adria’s Airbus A319s went to Air Serbia. Photo: Getty Images

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Ultimately, the impact has been highly negative

Once COVID-19 hit, Slovenia became Europe’s worst-performing aviation market. With no national airline to carry out reparation flights in the spring of 2020, and with no domestically-based airline to drive forward a recovery once the vaccination rollout gathered pace in the spring of 2021, Slovenia was left lagging.

Through winter 2021, there were days when there was not a single flight into or out of Slovenia. For months, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, there were no flights at all in the country.

Even when air traffic started picking up in Europe in June 2019, Slovenia was still lagging. On Friday 11th June, there were just five departures from Ljubljana: an Aeroflot flight to Moscow, an Air France flight to Paris, a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, an Air Serbia flight to Belgrade, and a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul.

In July 2021, Slovenia was left with less than 9% of its July 2019 traffic. That was an extraordinarily low score at a time when a nearby market like Kosovo was recording higher numbers than in 2019.

As a result, the Government of Slovenia has been progressively more interventionist in the aviation market. A retrospective subsidy was issued to airlines that maintained flights to Slovenia during 2020, and the country’s Deputy Prime Minister said that the free market could not solve Slovenia’s problems, so Slovenia may indeed be preparing to set up a successor airline to Adria Airways soon.

Do you miss Adria? Do you think Slovenia should intervene more in its aviation market? Let us know in the comments below.