Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport is seeking to establish a direct air link to Beijing. Both the Chinese Embassy in Slovenia and the Slovenian government have begun procedures for the flights to be launched. Ljubljana Airport's Head of Airline Management, Janez Krašnja, says the airport is supporting the Embassy's efforts, noting that intercontinental flights would give it a competitive advantage in the region. He expressed hope that a Chinese carrier could be persuaded to launch the service. Last month in Beijing, the Slovenian Minister for Economic Development and Technology, Zdravko Počivalšek, discussed the possibility of introducing flights between the two capital cities, with Ljubljana likely to be used a stopover en route to another European destination.
Mr Počivalšek held talks with the China National Tourism Administration and the Czech Regional Development Minister over the possibility of Ljubljana being used a stopover point on flights between Beijing and Prague. Currently, the only carrier serving the Czech capital out of Beijing is Hainan Airlines. "It is in the interest of the Czech Republic to upgrade its product for Chinese tourists by providing them with connections to Slovenia. We also talked about direct flights to Ljubljana, but I would say that the first step for this to happen would be through a stopover concept", Mr Počivalšek noted. The minister could not say when the flights could be launched, but reiterated Chinese interest in the service. He added that "some discussions have already been held" concerning direct cargo flights between Beijing and Maribor as well.
Last year, Hainan Airlines, China's fourth largest carrier, considered introducing flights from Chongqing, in the country's south-west, to Zadar by using the airport as a stopover on its service to Rome. Ultimately, these plans never materialised. Hainan Airlines introduced three weekly flights to Prague last September with its Airbus A330-200 aircraft. Besides Prague and Rome, the carrier also maintains services to Brussels, Berlin, Manchester, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Paris in Europe. The number of Chinese tourists visiting Slovenia increased 49.7% in 2015 compared to the year before. Under China's new "One Belt, One Road" strategy, the number of flights to European countries is expected to increase significantly over the coming years.