Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport has swung back to growth following six consecutive months of declining figures. Slovenia's busiest airport handled 132.081 passengers in October, an increase of 2.8% compared to the same month last year. The number of aircraft movements stood at 2.788, up 0.4%. The passenger decline, which began in April, was solely a result of Adria Airways, which made significant cuts to its network under new ownership this summer season. On the other hand, foreign carriers saw their numbers improve by 13% on their services to and from Ljubljana. As a result of the protracted downturn, the airport's annual figures are still softer to that of last year. It welcomed 1.210.414 travellers through its doors during the January - October period, a decrease of 4.2%. Aircraft movements were down 1%, standing at 27.906.
This winter season, Ljubljana Airport expects to see stronger numbers. Adria Airways has boosted frequencies on five of its routes (Amsterdam, Paris, Sarajevo, Warsaw and Zurich), although it no longer flies to Berlin, unlike last winter. Foreign carriers will also be adding flights, with low cost airline easyJet to introduce new services from London's Gatwick Airport to complement its existing flights from Stansted Airport. Overall, there will be just over 180 scheduled flights per week out of Ljubljana this winter, operating to 22 destinations in eighteen countries. The airport, which sees strong competition from larger nearby rivals such as Zagreb, Venice and Budapest, says it is holding its own. "Slovenia’s main airport is attracting a growing number of Slovenian and cross-border passengers by competing successfully with other airports in the region", it said in a statement.
During an interview earlier this year, Ljubljana Airport's General Manager, Zmago Skobir, blamed Adria Airways, which holds a 60 - 65% passenger share at the airport, for the declining figures. The airport has attracted several foreign carriers over the past year including LOT Polish Airlines and Aegean Airlines. However, Mr Skobir believes that under a new strategy, which will see Adria open new markets in the near future and put a greater emphasis on its Ljubljana hub, the airport's numbers will improve. "If we look only at the numbers, I would say they [Adria] 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. It should be noted that both Adria and the airport used to set the standard in the Balkans, but not anymore. All have recovered and found successful models. Serbia has Etihad Airways, while 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", Mr Skobir said. According to the General Manager, Adria's main advantage is its long tradition.