|Maribor Airport hopes for new flights with new owner|
Slovenia’s union-owned bank, Delavska hranilica, has acquired a 57% stake in Maribor Edvard Rusjan Airport, in the country’s north-east. The move was made in response to the recent acquisition of Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport by Germany’s Fraport. The bank purchased its majority stake in Maribor Airport for 900.000 euros, ending years of failed sale attempts. While Maribor Airport is currently served only by summer charters and occasional cargo flights, Delavska hranilnica’s Chairman, Jože Stegne, is confident Maribor will soon offer scheduled, year-long services. However, Mr. Stegne refused to speculate on how long it would take to attract new customers. Moreover, he admitted that one of the reasons for the investment was to show that the sale of Slovenia's largest airport operator, Aerodrom Ljubljana, to a foreign owner (Fraport), earlier this year was a mistake.
With the bank becoming a 57% shareholder, the minority stake remains in the hands of Aviofun, a small aviation company which stepped in following the collapse of Prevent, the car-seat cover maker which had owned the airport for many years. Mr. Stegne said he wants the minority owner to stay on in order to provide specialised support in the field of aviation. The acquisition has been welcomed by Maribor Airport’s CEO Marko Gros, who said that this will enable the completion of a three year financial restructuring programme. “A new owner will enable faster development of the airport”, Mr. Gros added.
Maribor Airport saw a 15% increase in passenger numbers in the first eight months of the year and the airport expects handle a total of 16.000 travellers by the end 2014. A new fifteen million euro terminal, with the capacity to handle 600.000 passenger per year, was opened at Edvard Rusjan Airport in late 2012. Further investments are planned with the expansion of the existing runway scheduled in three years time. Despite these developments, the Slovenian national carrier believes it would be unprofitable to maintain year-long flights from the city. In a recent interview, Adria Airways’ CEO Mark Anžur, said, “Adria attempted to fly from Maribor but it is difficult to operate flights out of secondary airports in Slovenia because it is a small country with well developed road infrastructure”. He added, “You can drive from Maribor to Ljubljana within an hour and a half”. In September, start-up airline FlyEth announced plans to launch operations from Slovenia’s second largest city to Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Croatia. The airline intends to inaugurate flights on January 15, 2015 with a fleet of two Dornier 328 aircraft and two to three Bombardier CRJ200 jets.