Ljubljana Airport “unlikely” to see transatlantic flights

Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport is continuing its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and although Slovenian nationals are able to enjoy visa free travel to the United States and Canada, while New York was one of Ljubljana’s busiest unserved routes prior to the global health emergency, services across the Atlantic remain unlikely. Ljubljana was last linked to the United States through a nonstop air service prior to the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, when JAT Yugoslav Airlines maintained operations to New York’s JFK Airport. The Big Apple remains Ljubljana’s number one destination in the United States, however, the Slovenian capital's chances of handling transatlantic flights thirty years on are slim.

Ljubljana Airport’s former long-time General Manager and current Advisor to the Management, Zmago Skobir, previously said, “Theoretically it is possible for us to have transatlantic flights again, but it is unlikely. The Ministry for Infrastructure has concluded agreements with a number of countries. One of the most liberal ones is with the United Arab Emirates, which would allow for flights from Dubai to New York via Ljubljana. So, it is possible, but in reality, it depends on the actual demand and economies of scale”. Mr Skobir added, “Within a radius of 500 kilometres, we have five airports, most of which offer flights to the United States for 500 to 600 euros. Can Ljubljana generate enough traffic for a transatlantic route to be profitable? If for example, Emirates established two to three weekly flights from Dubai to New York via Ljubljana, I think some fifty to sixty passengers would board in Ljubljana”.

In the pre-pandemic 2019 a total of 36.302 passengers flew indirectly between Ljubljana and the United States on a single itinerary. This does not take into account travellers who flew from nearby airports or has unlinked tickets to the States. A total of 23% of Ljubljana’s US passengers flew either to or from New York, followed by San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Washington, Boston and Atalanta. That same year, Adria Airways was the most utilised carrier to reach the States, as it shuttled passengers to and from various Star Alliance hubs in Europe, transferring travellers onto Lufthansa and United. Air France also performed extremely well on the Slovenia - US market and in cooperation with its partner Delta handled 19% of all travellers between the two countries. New York was Ljubljana’s overall fifth busiest unserved route in 2019. Despite the dominance of Adria and its Star Alliance partners on the Slovenian market, both Air France and Air Serbia managed to account for 30% of all passengers carried between the two cities.

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