STA, 20 June 2019 - As problems surrounding airline Adria Airways seem to be mounting, Fraport Slovenija, the operator of Ljubljana international airport, says it is ready for a potential worst-case scenario at its main client.
"Although we cannot provide specific answers, we can say Fraport Slovenija has a plan ready for replacement transport, should it lose its largest business partner," the company said on Thursday, describing its business relationship with Adria as fair.
Fraport noted there was demand for certain air routes, which bodes well for keeping the routes which are potentially profitable.
Slovenia's profile in foreign markets is growing and there is more interest in visiting Slovenia, so the need for launching new or additional air links also grows.
The Brnik-based company also stressed it believed in the potential of Slovenia's air transport market, which can be seen from its many infrastructure investments.
Fraport told news portal Siol.si that attracting (new) airlines is "a very demanding and time-consuming process which usually takes up to two years".
This is even more so if a small market such as the two-million Slovenian one is in question.
Slovenia's main airport offers scheduled flights to 27 cities in 20 countries on board 12 regular airlines, which translates into more than 260 scheduled flights a week.
In summer, Adria, which has recently cancelled several flights and had some liquidity problems in the past, connects Ljubljana with 16 cities on direct routes.
Adria, which the Slovenian government sold to German fund K4 in 2016, carries 52% of all passengers travelling via Ljubljana airport, according to Fraport.
STA, 20 June 2019 - With mounting flight cancellations and delays, Adria Airways has been in the spotlight in recent weeks as passengers left stranded aired their grievances on social media. The Civil Aviation Authority said it had already received 134 complaints against the carrier so far this year over violations of EU rules on passenger rights.
The complaints related to Adria account for the bulk of the 208 complaints received so far this year, the agency told the STA.
Adria was also the main target of complaints last year and accounted for nearly 90% of all fines issued, its fines totalling roughly EUR 35,500.
Overall, the number of complaints the agency has received has been rising, from 149 in 2017 to 337 last year and 208 so far this year.
Given the trend, the number is set to rise further this year, but the agency says Adria is not the only airline to blame.
The number of flights and passengers has surged in recent years, with the number of violations of passenger rights rising accordingly.
STA, 17 June 2019 - The auditing firm which checked the financials of Slovenian carrier Adria Airways for last year is in the spotlight on suspicion that Adria's financial statements do not accurately reflect its financial state, news portal Siol reported on Monday.
The Slovenian Agency for Public Oversight of Auditing is looking into the work of the Slovenian branch of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which audited Adria, to determine whether it has done its job, according to Siol.
The credibility of Adria's balance sheet is one of the preconditions for its air operator certificate. If Adria were to lose it, it would have to ground its aircraft, Siol says.
"We've been informed about the audit and we do not see any problems. We're convinced our auditors have conducted a fair and professional audit of our financial statements," Adria said.
Siol speculates the check will look into several transactions involving the Adria brand, which was first sold to a mailbox company and later bought back as a capital injection to shore up the firm's capital base.
The company the brand was sold to is believed to be tightly connected with 4K Invest, the private equity fund which owns Adria.
The Agency for Public Oversight of Auditing has initiated proceedings at the request of the Civil Aviation Authority.
The news is the latest sign of problems at the beleaguered carrier, which has been in the media spotlight for months due to numerous cancellations and mergers of flights that have extended short-haul flights by hours.
Adria has claimed the ongoing disruptions are a result of technical and operational reasons and pledged to stabilise operations by the beginning of July.
Siol claims the cancellations are a result of technical issues with aircraft and lack of flight crews exacerbated by the airline's financial problems.
The airline had similar problems last summer and pledged to sort things out by this summer.
Adria's woes and the possibility of it going bust have raised concerns about Slovenia's air traffic connections and even given rise to calls that a renationalisation should be undertaken.
Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek said today state aid was out of the question since the carrier had received aid less than ten years ago, but she indicated the government was working on a contingency plan.
In the event Adria can no longer connect Ljubljana with European capitals, the government is exploring incentives for certain routes that are key for the state. "This is all the state can currently do," according to Bratušek.
The Slovenian Minister for Infrastructure, Alenka Bratušek, has said the government has developed contingency plans in case Adria Airways ceases operations. The comments came following a horror week for the national carrier during which it has been in the media spotlight for cancelled, delayed and merged flights, as well as financial mismanagement by its owners, lack of staff, unpaid compensation claims, the alleged involvement of its former managers in the collapse of Switzerland's Darwin Airline, and suspicions its yet-to-be-published financial report for 2018 does not reflect the company's actual financial state. Commenting on the situation, Ms Bratušek said the government has no means to aid Adria until 2021, as the company was a recipient of state funds in 2011. Under European Union regulation, the government is barred from providing further financial assistance to the airline until a ten-year deadline has passed.
The full story can be read here.
STA, 6 June - DRI, a state-owned consulting and engineering company specialised in infrastructure projects, will take over the management of Maribor airport as a stop-gap solution after the current operator's lease terminates on 15 July, the government decided on Thursday.
The decision comes after the Chinese-backed airport operator Aerodrom Maribor announced in January it was invoking a six-month notice and terminating the 15-year lease agreement it signed in 2017 due to delays in a planned expansion of the airport's runway.
The transfer of the lease to DRI, which the government said follows the "unsuccessful story with the Chinese lessees", will help the state avoid the return of almost EUR 6 million in EU funds it received to build a new passenger terminal in Maribor.
In accordance with the commitments accompanying the EU funds, the airport must stay open at least until mid-November 2021.
Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek, who wondered how "such a bad partner" had been chosen to operate the airport in the first place, said the government had no other choice but to transfer the management onto DRI, whose bylaws were changed today so that it can act as manager of infrastructure.
This is because the current operator made continued cooperation conditional on the state paying them to manage the airport rather than it paying the EUR 100,000 monthly lease, while transferring the lease to a private company would require a new tender.
Bratušek said this was just a stop-gap solution as the state had no intention of managing the airport in the long term. The long-term options are finding a new lessee or selling the airport. Bratušek finds the first option more likely.
The local community welcomed the government decision to save the airport, while Aerodrom Maribor said it would shortly take decisions in the company's interest.
Unofficial information indicates Aerodrom Maribor will not take any drastic measures for the time being.
The company, owned by SHS Aviation, said the solutions it had presented to the government were the most favourable in terms of finances and the stability of air services.
Hoče Mayor Marko Soršak hopes DRI manages to get the operating licence so that the airport remains open. Similarly, the Maribor municipality pointed to the airport's role for the Štajerska region's development.
Both Hoče and Maribor believe the state should continue with changes to the national zoning plan for the airport, which they see as a prerequisite for its development.
Maribor would also like a rail track to be integrated into the national zoning plan to make the airport more attractive to potential new customers.
The Štajerska Chamber of Commerce is aware today's decision is but a stop-gape measure buying the government time before it takes the final decision on the airport's future.
Chamber director Aleksandra Podgornik said the region's businesses considered the airport an important infrastructure which should bring both the region and the state a competitive advantage.
She said "the region does not demand any special treatment for the airport, into which a lot of effort and money has been invested".
But we "demand the same conditions that apply to Aerodrom Portorož and Ljubljana airport, which is profitable and in foreign hands but still receives support".
The website Ex-Yu Aviation, essential reading for anyone with an interest in reginal air transport, reports that Slovenia is continuing in its efforts to attract nonstop flights to the Gulf, with a focus on te United Arab Emirates. The efforts include moves by the Ministry for Economic Development and Technology, as well as the Slovenian Tourist Board, which is funding marketing activities to promote direct links to Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The website notes that the UAE's Economy Minister, Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori, sees considerable potential for tourism between the two states, and that direct flights between Dubai and Ljubljana would open Slovenia to the more than eighty million passengers who pass through Dubai Airport each year.
At present the closest direct link is the deal that the Emirates has established with GoOpti, the Slovenian shuttle bus company, which enables Emirates customers to use the carrier’s website to book tickets from Ljubljana to Zagreb Airport.
All out stories on air travel are here
STA, 23 May 2019 - A security inspector of the Civil Aviation Agency pretending to be a passenger managed to bring a dummy explosive device past the checkpoints at the Jože Pučnik Airport Ljubljana last week, public broadcaster TV Slovenija reported on Thursday.
Citing unofficial but reliable sources, TV Slovenija said that the dummy explosive device went undetected by a member of the security personnel. Airport operator Fraport Slovenija outsources security to GS4, a private security firm.
The report says that the inspector, posing as a passenger en route to Frankfurt, walked past the X-ray machine and the personal check, carrying the device in his backpack.
In correspondence with TV Slovenija, Civil Aviation Agency director Rok Marolt initially denied the agency having carried out a security check at the Ljubljana airport last week, but he eventually confirmed it.
The journalist indicated that Marolt had not been aware of the inspection earlier in the day, while Marolt said that he had not been trying to sweep the results under the rug.
The airport operator meanwhile said that "the described event did not take place. There was, however, an internal check, which the company will not comment on," the report says.
The agency told the STA that it received a classified report on the check at the beginning of the week. It added that the check was conducted according to protocol and that it recommended appropriate corrective measures.
In its statement for the STA, Fraport also pointed to the confidential nature of the report. When asked about hiring a different security firm, Fraport said that a call for bids was open at the moment. However, this has nothing to do with the internal check, as GS4's five-year contract is running out.
The regional aviation website Ex-Yu Aviation reports that Air France’s winter schedule for 2019/2020 will more than double the number of weekly flights between Paris and Ljubljana, rising from six to thirteen. This will see two flights a day, except for Saturdays, with the route being served by the Air France HOP! brand. Visitors to and from the French capital will also have more choice from Adria Airways, which is planning to increase its scheduled service from five days a week to seven.
The site Ex-Yu Aviation reports that Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport saw it’s third month in a row with rising passenger numbers, with the figures for March 2019 up 3% on a year before, and a total of 133,641 travellers served. In contrast, SHS Aviation, the Chinese-owned operator of Maribor Edvard Rusjan Airport, will end its involvement with the troubled airport on July 15 2019.
SHS, which had planned to make the airport a hub for Chinese tourists, signed a 15-year agreeement for the concession in March 2017. However, it has been unhappy with delays by the Slovenian government in agreeing a new zoning plan that would have enabled it to invest €600 million in a redevelopment project, as well as the rejection of requests for state aid.
Maribor Airport has been without any scheduled commercial flights since September 2018.
All our stories on air travel are here
STA, 5 April 2019 - The boss of Slovenian air carrier Adria Airways, Holger Kowarsch, has told the STA the failed deal with Russia's Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company (SCAC) to lease Russian planes would also have involved an around 10-million-euro capital injection. Adria is thus still looking for a strategic partner.
Kowarsch, general manager of the Slovenian company in German ownership which had some liquidity problems recently, said it had been Adria that exited the deal.
After preliminary contracts were signed, SCAC did not deliver when the payment deadline was due in end February, for which reason Adria quit the deal, he explained in an interview for the STA on Friday.
Earlier this week, Adria announced it would not expand its fleet with 15 Sukhoi Superjet SSJ100 planes, as it had failed to agree on the terms of the long-term lease.
It said on Tuesday it doubted SCAC's interest in a fair and stable long-term partnership and was worried about its lack of a common vision of further strategic development.
Meanwhile, SCAC said in a release on Wednesday it had opted against entering the deal due to Adria's poor financial standing, in which way it avoided potential losses.
According to Kowarsch, Adria was in talks with SCAC for almost ten months, the Russians had access to all business information and carried out an extensive due diligence.
He also noted Adria had never denied it would post a loss for 2018, which he said will amount to a two-digit figure in terms of millions of euro.
Despite a planned recapitalisation of around 10 million euro, Kowarsch said it had not been agreed yet what stake SCAC would get in the Slovenian air carrier.
However, EU law limits the stake of investors from third countries in air carriers to 49%, he explained.
Kowarsch said Adria had been at first disappointed as it considered the Russian company a good opportunity for the air carrier.
But he also said that in recent meetings with Adria's partners in Europe and the US, he received information which put SCAC in a bad light as business partners.
"We need a partner we can rely on and with which we can find common ground on Adria Airways's future development," he said.
Adria's owners, among them German fund 4K Investments, believe Adria still needs a strategic partner, and is already in talks with potential investors, but Kowarsch said there was no hurry.
He noted that after it was supplied with four million euro at the end of 2018, Adria is fit in terms of capital so there is no need for a new capital injection.
This is why he does not expect any more problems with the Civil Aviation Agency, which periodically checks their financial standing and had ordered K4 Investments to recapitalise Adria last year.
Kowarsch also said that contrary to some media reports, the recapitalisation was carried out in cash.
While there were still some liquidity problems last winter, the prospects for the summer season are good so Adria expects a two-digit growth in passengers.
The plan for this year is to get out of the red, Kowarsch stressed.
Last year's loss is a result of several factors, among then damages Adria had to pay for cancelled flights and delays, dearer fuel, problems with staff and a slow introduction of Saab's 2000 planes.
Kowarsch stressed that despite all the problems, the safety of passengers on board Adria planes has never been at risk. He noted that negative publicity in some media outlets has caused the company quite some business damage.
Adria will most probably lease Canada's Bombardier's planes, Kowarsch announced, saying the 2020 summer season was now being planned so they would see what fleet they needed.
He also expects the number of passengers to rise in 2021, when Slovenia takes over the EU presidency for six months.
The website Ex-Yu Aviation reports that the Slovenian government is planning to increase the number of international connections with the country by subsidizing flights on new routes to and from Ljubljana airport. The project, which is being led by the Slovenian Tourist Board, will give €150,000 a year to each new route for marketing and promotional activities, with €90,000 provided to airlines adding more flights to their existing schedules.
The countries seen as most important for Slovenia’s tourist industry in this regard are listed asGermany, Finland, the United Kingdom, Russia, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Israel, Ukraine, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Japan, and the United States, as well as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.