The new owners of Maribor Edvard Rusjan Airport, the 60% Dutch and 40% Canadian-owned SHS Aviation, who last year became part-owners of Belgium's VLM Airlines (though subsidiary SHS Antwerp Aviation), following the carrier's bankruptcy, could move the company to the Slovenian city in order for it to restart operations, the daily "Večer" reports. SHS recently registered VLM Airlines Slovenia, with two of its board members, Siu Yin Pang and Yeung Gillian Yuen, also serving as directors of SHS Aviation Slovenia. Mr Yin Pang is expected to become the General Manager of Maribor Airport in the near future. VLM Airlines still owns seven Fokker 50 aircraft, which could be moved to Maribor. Furthermore, VLM is now seeking a new Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) in order to restart operations. No decision has been made yet on the name of the future airline. Either VLM will be retained or another name will be selected. However, SHS has denied claims that VLM's Fokkers will be moved to Maribor and notes that the tubroprops will continue to operate from Antwerp Airport. On the other hand, SHS Aviation Slovenia will develop airport activities, it added.
The Belgian regional carrier was previously based in Antwerp and operated flights to Germany and the United Kingdom. The new owners intend to purchase suitable aircraft in order for the airline to link Europe with secondary cities in China. "We would be delighted for Maribor to be connected with some cities in China and for both passenger and cargo traffic to be developed", the Slovenian Minister for Economic Development and Technology, Zdravko Počivalšek, said recently. VLM ceased operations and declared bankruptcy last year after accumulating six million euros in debt. The Mayor of Maribor, Andrej Fištravec, has hinted at the possibility that the new owners of Maribor Airport would establish an airline as well. "As far as I know, the investor has much bigger plans in mind than just the airport", Mr Fištravec said.
SHS purchased the "Aerodrom Maribor" operator for seven million euros last month. The actual purchase price amounted to ten million euros, however, the remaining three million is being held in a neutral account and will be deposited when and if SHS, through its newly acquired operator, secures a fifteen-year lease of Maribor Airport's infrastructure from the Slovenian government. A public call for bids for the lease of infrastructure has been published by the government and will run until the end of January. Edvard Rusjan Airport handled some 11.000 travellers last year, which is down almost 50% on 2015. In its heyday in the early 1990s, it welcomed some 85.000 passengers per year. The airport attributed the slump in 2016 to the refugee crisis, terrorist threats, Adria Airways' decision not to resume seasonal services to London Southend Airport and the cancellation of Express Airways' planned service to Dusseldorf.