STA, 21 December 2018 - Fraport Slovenija, the operator of the country's biggest airport, will log a record number of passengers this year, managing director Zmago Skobir told the STA in an interview.
When German airport operator Fraport acquired the state-owned Aerodrom Ljubljana in 2015, it promised to invest in infrastructure, development and jobs, and it has been delivering on its promise ever since, Skobir said.
"Ever since Fraport's arrival, the company's development and operations have skyrocketed. In 2014, we recorded 1.34 million passengers and EUR 32m in operating revenue. By the end of this year, we will have served 1.82 million passengers."
The number of passengers travelling through the Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport increased by 8.5% compared to 2017, but the increase was even higher in the previous two years, said Skobir.
Moreover, the number of employees went from 400 at the time of the takeover to 482 at the moment. The company also additionally hires temps when the need occurs, he said.
Fast growth also brings a variety of challenges, with Skobir saying that the company faced lack of staff, which was also overburdened.
"But we are aware that people are the key element in the services sector. A beautiful new terminal means nothing if the staff is unkind and unprofessional."
"We invest a lot to make our staff happy. This year, we will set up a pay system, also raising salaries by 15%. We are also looking for new staff. We are an attractive employer but the training takes a while and we aim to keep the staff, we want them to feel good here."
When asked about the reasons for strong growth, Skobir said that there were several, the main one being Slovenia becoming an increasingly popular destination.
Moreover, the airport has sufficient infrastructure to handle the increase in traffic and can respond with a good quality service at a competitive price. This is important because it is competing for travellers and airlines with six other airports nearby.
Adria Airways has made a considerable contribution to this because it is trying to restructure its flight network since it got a new owner, according to Skobir. He also expressed satisfaction that the airline has been doing well after ten years of struggles.
"But we'll see what will happen in the future. So far, cooperation has been exemplary and we expect the planned recapitalisation and other plans to go well."
"But it would not be the end of the world for the airport and Slovenia's connectivity in case of a different scenario."
When asked about the trends in aviation and expectations for the Ljubljana airport, Skobir said the airport will likely follow the upward trends expected throughout the industry. However, the strong growth will taper off and become more stable.
When asked whether the company was prepared to face the next economic crisis, which is expectedly around the corner, Skobir said the key was to invest in infrastructure, equipment, organisation and employees when the going is good.
"Fortunately, we have a strategic owner who operates more than 30 airports and understands investment cycles. All of the profits and accumulated assets... go into infrastructure, ensuring stable and steady returns over a longer period."
The airport operator is currently getting ready to start construct a new terminal. If everything goes according to plan, construction will start in the spring and be completed by the end of 2020, about half a year before Slovenia will assume the EU presidency in the second half of the EU.
Skobir is moreover happy with the development of the airport city, saying that a lot had happened in the past two years, since the local authorities gave the go-ahead to develop some of the land near the airport. He expects the airport city to be completed in the next three to five years.