The Slovenia Times

Call published for airline subsidies

The new passenger terminal at Ljubljana Airport. Photo: Anže Malovrh/STA

The Ministry of Infrastructure has published an open call for airlines interested in operating flights to three international airports in Slovenia under a scheme that aims to improve air connectivity after a very slow post-Covid recovery.

€5.6 million will be available per year in the next three years, or a total of €16.8 million. Carriers can apply to get subsidies covering 50% of airport fees at Slovenia's three international airports, Ljubljana, Maribor and Portorož.

Ten destinations are prioritised: Brussels, Skopje, Prague, Berlin, Vienna, Copenhagen, Athens, Madrid, Amsterdam and Helsinki. If any funds remain available after the call, they will be available to carriers flying to Rome, Stockholm, Oslo, Barcelona, Lisbon, Prishtina and Paris.

If there is any money left to spend after the second round, subsidies will be available for routes across the European Common Aviation Area, which includes the EU, Norway, Iceland, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.

The call, published on 4 April and with a one-month window for applications, comes after the aid scheme received the green light from the European Commission, which said it was in conformity with EU state aid rules. A similar though financially more modest scheme was in place in 2020 and 2021.

The subsidies have been made available after plans to create a new flagship carrier, which pop up every now and then, have been repeatedly shelved as financially unsustainable. But the subsidies have been the subject of criticism as well.

Alen Šćuric, an expert on aviation in southeast Europe, told an event in Ljubljana in February that the aviation sector in Slovenia was being handled like it were in the hand of "five-year-olds".

"It's February but it's still unclear which links will be subsidised. When [the government] makes a decision, it will realise that carriers can't set up new routes overnight," he said.

Slovenia has seen passenger numbers plummet, first due to the bankruptcy of flag carrier Adria Airways and later because of Covid. And while the figures have been recovering in recent months, passenger numbers are still far from pre-Covid levels.

The Jože Pučnik Ljubljana Airport, the country's largest, expects to handle roughly 1.2 million passengers this year, compared to 1.7 million in 2019, the last year before the pandemic.


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