VLM Airlines Slovenia, a subsidiary of SHS Aviation Slovenia which runs Maribor Edvard Rusjan Airport, has been granted an Air Operators Certificate (AOC) by the Slovenian Civil Aviation Agency for the transport of passengers and cargo. As a result, the ambitious carrier, which aims to link Slovenia's second largest city with eleven destinations this year (Belgrade, Berlin, Hamburg, London, Podgorica, Split, Zurich, Xi'an, Chongqing and Nanchang) with a mix of Airbus A320, A330 and Fokker 50 aircraft can now commence operations. One of the three directors at VLM Slovenia, Harm Jan Prins, has confirmed the airline's upcoming launch from Maribor. The company previously said that upon receiving its Slovenian AOC it will start commercial flights within a month.
According to Belgium's "Travel Magazine", the Maribor-based VLM will now inherit a fleet of six Fokker 50 aircraft from sister company VLM Airlines in Belgium and base all of the turboprops in the city, which will enable it to introduce its outlined European operations. The F50 has the capacity to seat up to 58 passengers. Furthermore, the first two Airbus aircraft are set to touchdown in Slovenia shortly. Ultimately, the carrier plans to register up to six A320-200s and fifteen A330-200s in the country. Although many have questioned the nature of the project, as well as the unrealistic targets set by the company, SHS is adamant its investment in both the airport and airline is part of a wider strategic project. "Maribor Airport, with good transportation links to Europe and Asia opens up a lot of opportunities for trade, tourism and investment in Slovenia. With our network partners in Europe and Asia, there are a lot of business opportunities for the opening of local enterprises in the tourism, food, real estate and services industries", SHS noted.
The new operators of Maribor Airport will invest at least 300 million euros into the city, which will include the construction of a new passenger terminal at the airport and the lengthening of the runway. SHS foresees Maribor Airport handling 1.54 million passengers and 82.000 tonnes of cargo by 2022. This number is expected to grow to two million passengers and 160.000 tonnes of cargo by 2028. During 2017 alone, SHS anticipates for Maribor Airport to welcome some 400.000 travellers through its doors, which would be a record. Some 139 million euros will be invested into the airport, including the development of long haul flights, over the next five years.