No National Airline: The Negative Impact On Slovenia’s Air Traffic

Ljubljana Airport, the only airport with scheduled passenger services in Slovenia, achieved less than 9% of its 2019 traffic in the first six months of 2021. Slovenia’s aviation sector is facing a far deeper crisis than other European sectors because Slovenia decided not to form another national airline after the collapse of Adria Airways.

Adria Airways Airbus
Without Adria Airways to drive forward a recovery, Slovenia’s aviation sector is doing very poorly at the moment. Photo: M.Oertle via flickr

Less than 9% of 2019 traffic

In what is one of the world’s worst aviation performances in the six months between January and June 2021, Slovenia reached just 8.9% of the passenger traffic it had in the same period in 2019, Fraport figures show.

The total number of passengers in all of Slovenia was just 70,011 in the first half (H1) of this year. There are three reasons for this:

  • Slovenia’s government decided not to set up a new national airline to replace the bankrupt Adria Airways in 2019
  • All of Slovenia is in the catchment area of major European airports like Venice and Vienna, but also Zagreb, Trieste, and Treviso
  • Obviously, COVID-19, and Slovenia’s relatively strict border policy in the winter and early spring of 2021
Adria Airways
Slovenia chose not to replace Adria Airways, which went bankrupt in September 2019. Photo: Curimedia via Wikimedia

Why was Adria Airways not replaced?

Adria Airways was a privatized flag carrier of Slovenia that was 58 years old. So, when it went bankrupt in 2019, it did so as a private enterprise with no preparation put in place by the Slovenian government.

At first, Slovenia planned to set up a new state-owned national airline that would carry on as the flag carrier of the country. However, this never happened because the political will to set up a new airline was, and still is, very low. The general mood in the country is that Slovenians do not want tax revenue to be spent on this endeavor.

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What was aviation in Slovenia like in the past year?

Starting in October 2020, there were days when there was not a single passenger service departing Ljubljana all day.

As Simple Flying reported at the time, it started with there being no flights at all on Tuesdays every week. On other days in the week, there were no more than a handful of flights, sometimes as few as two.

The situation then got progressively worse until February and March 2021, when there was not a single flight departing Ljubljana for three days in a row, week after week. For a period of several months, all of Slovenia had no flights at all on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Adria Airways CRJ-700 on the runway
With a whole fleet of small-capacity aircraft, Adria used to connect Slovenia to all of the major hubs in Europe. Photo: Getty Images

COVID-19 restrictions on international travel were fairly strict in Slovenia this winter, prompting many airlines to cancel their services and cut frequencies.

Even without restrictions, Slovenia is not a lucrative market for foreign airlines. The country’s proximity to Western Europe makes car journeys an appealing alternative to flying and decreases the demand for flights. Slovenia also has good rail links to Western Europe.

The Slovenian market is also very small: the country only has a population of two million people, and the entire country is in the catchment area of many airports with strong destination networks like Vienna and Venice that will always offer more flexibility and choice for potential travelers.

When do you think Slovenia’s aviation sector will start recovering? Let us know what you think of this story in the comments below.