Adria Airways has seen its passenger numbers decline 12% during the first seven months of the year from its main hub in Ljubljana, while its figures were down almost 20% over the last three months. It comes as a result of the carrier's network cuts, which have seen it discontinue several routes from the Slovenian capital since the start of the year. Commenting on Adria's performance under its new German owners 4K Invest, the General Manager of Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport, Zmago Skobir, said in an interview, "During recent talks, Adria assured us that they have an entirely new concept through which they plan to strengthen the network in a different way and now we are waiting to see whether this will come to fruition". He added, "Personally, I am worried about their development. The figures are showing that it is not good. We understand that that some routes are not profitable and that they can't be maintained just because it is nice to have them in the network or because it benefits a third party. We will see how things develop. We hope that the story will end successfully although it does not look good at first glance". Adria's reductions have affected Ljubljana Airport's performance, which saw its passenger numbers decline 4.6% over the past seven months. The airport has managed to offset a stronger fall in figures through foreign carriers, which registered strong growth.
According to Mr Skobir, relations between the airport and the Slovenian national carrier have been difficult at times but are improving. "When we first met with representatives of Adria's new owners, I would say that the conflict worsened. They were convinced that we could not survive without Adria so they entered negotiations with the expectation of securing even greater discounts because we had no other choice. This, of course, is not true. Our owner is one of the world's largest airport operators and they understand how to do business. However, we quickly managed to sort out our differences and we have respectful relations now", Mr Skobir told the daily "Dnevnik". He added, "Payments towards the airport under Adria's new owners have been much more regular than they were before. We will see how this will develop, since we are planning to revise our tariff system which has been unchanged for ten years".
Commenting on Adria's future, the head of Ljubljana Airport said, "If we look only at the numbers, I would say they do not have many options. However, if I look at their plans, now that we meet more regularly at a more professional level, I would say that the company really wants to recover. Even if they do so, in my opinion, Adria cannot survive on its own without a larger partner because it is too small". Mr Skobir concludes that Adria has lost the race in the former Yugoslav market. "It should be noted that both Adria and the airport used to set the standard in the Balkans, now we are last. All have recovered and found successful models. Serbia has Etihad Airways, Skopje Airport, which was a dead-end, is now run by the Turks and has linked up with Wizz Air. It now boasts 1.2 million passengers. Zagreb is being developed by the French. Through Etihad Airways, Ljubljana is now linked to New York through Belgrade. In the seventies and eighties, JAT operated flights from Belgrade to New York via Ljubljana. Therefore, history repeats itself but we have stayed ten steps behind". According to Mr Skobir, Adria's main advantage is its long tradition. The carrier now has a passenger share of some 60 - 65% at Ljubljana Airport. The airline has been pursuing opportunities in Poland over the last two quarters where it has seen significant growth, as well as Estonia through its commercial agreement with Nordica, which it helped set up.