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The first step towards traffic recovery

Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport welcomed its first commercial flight yesterday after two and a half months, as Air Serbia resumed operations from Belgrade, marking the start of its recovery. There was a total of 24 passengers on the ATR72 turboprop and a further forty travellers on the inbound service. Some passengers returned to Serbia immediately upon learning they would be subjected to mandatory quarantine.

“This first flight is of extreme importance to us because it is the first step towards traffic recovery. We are looking forward to it, there is also some excitement in the air. The world needs functioning air transport. And the challenge for all of us is to regain confidence in the importance and safety of air travel”, the General Manager of operator Fraport Slovenija, Zmago Skobir, said. Most airlines serving Ljubljana will resume their operations to the Slovenian capital in June and July although several routes have been temporarily suspended for the summer season. These include flights by Finnaair from Helsinki, Air Serbia from Niš and easyJet from Berlin, while planned new operations by Iberia from Madrid and easyJet from London Luton have been cancelled.

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Ljubljana Airport will see a number of charters to Croatia and Greece this summer. Leisure flights from Ljubljana to Dubrovnik will commence on June 28 and will be followed by charters to ten Greek islands, starting in July. Croatia’s Trade Air previously announced it would base an aircraft in Ljubljana over the summer and is expected to operate most of the flights. “The race to persuade carriers to resume flights as soon as possible has begun. The result will largely depend on how countries, including Slovenia, react in terms of border reopening and their strategic approach to providing support for market promotion”, Mr Skobir said.

Ljubljana Airport is also looking at boosting its liquidity, which has been severely impacted by the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. Since March 17, when a ban on commercial flights in Slovenia was issued, airport operator Fraport Slovenija recorded just 15% of normal revenue. The operator has urged the relevant ministries to provide aid, however, according to Mr Skobir, air transport has not seen any special stimulus measures designed to help mitigate the economic fallout so far. “The number of redundancies will depend on the recovery forecast made by airlines”, Mr Skobir said. He added, “Due to our liquidity situation, and in order to be ready for further development, it will be necessary to re-examine all key costs in terms of investments”. For the time being, the ongoing construction of Ljubljana Airport’s new passenger terminal will not be affected, however, Mr Skobir warned its completion may be delayed. According to its initial schedule, the project is expected to be completed early next year, while the new facility would come into use from June 2021.