Passenger air travel resumes at Ljubljana airport
Ljubljana, 29 May - After two months and a half of severe air traffic restrictions due to the Covid-19 epidemic, regular passenger transport services resumed at Ljubljana airport on Friday. The first flight was operated by Air Serbia with the airport expecting most airlines to return by early July.
The return will depend on efforts to lift border restrictions and promote the destinations, said airport operator Fraport Slovenija, adding that the airport had been forced to rationalise expenditure, including in investment projects, due to a major loss of revenue.
Following today's landing of an Air Serbia aircraft coming from Belgrade, Fraport Slovenija director Zmago Skobir said that other flights were to follow in the coming weeks.
The relaunch of regular services will take place in three parts: by 15 June, the airport expects to see the return of Lufthansa, Montenegro Airlines and a Polish carrier; by the end of June, Swiss Air, Air Brussels, Transavio and British Airways; and after 1 July, the return of other airlines.
Meanwhile, Iberia and Finnair have decided not to fly to Slovenia in this year's summer season.
Charter flights are also scheduled with key Slovenian tour operators announcing the first flights for the second half of July and in August.
Since Slovenia's border with Croatia has been reopened, flight services between Ljubljana and Dubrovnik are in the pipeline. Providing a connection with Greece is slated to be next.
Air Serbia Director General Duncan Naysmith said today that flights to Ljubljana meant resuming regional air traffic. Between 29 May and 21 June, the carrier plans to carry out eleven return flights. Air Serbia hopes that the demand will be big enough to warrant an increase in the number of weekly flights to Ljubljana.
Services will still be restricted this year given that carriers have been reducing their fleets. Skobir has pointed out that securing passengers' trust in the safety of air travel will be one of the key factors in resuming services.
Since international air passenger transport was banned on 17 March, Fraport Slovenija has recorded only 15% of normal revenue.
The operator has urged the relevant ministries to provide aid, however, according to Skobir, air transport has not seen any special stimulus measures designed to help mitigate the economic fallout so far.
What exactly cost-cutting efforts mean for employees Skobir could not yet tell. "The number of redundancies will depend on the forecasts of air carriers," he said, adding that the situation was uncertain.
The airport's major investment in expanding the passenger terminal is currently still planned to go ahead, however the project could be postponed due to the extreme circumstances.
All the anti-Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines, proposed by the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), have been introduced at the airport to ensure the safety of passengers and staff.
Only passengers and staff can enter the terminal, mask-wearing is mandatory as well as using hand-sanitisers and maintaining physical distance.
Protective glass panels have also been set up to reduce contact between staff and passengers.
Temperature screenings have not been introduced so far since the institute has not deemed this measure obligatory or necessary.
Skobir added that in case the EU authorities proclaimed the measure mandatory, the airport would implement it.
The institute has also coordinated with the airport response protocols regarding potential cases indicating suspicion of infection with coronavirus.
In terms of passenger arrivals, all the measures in place for crossing Slovenia's land border apply.
The passengers arriving from Serbia, a non-EU country, today will thus have to be quarantined, except for Slovenian citizens, those owning a property in Slovenia or those with diplomatic passports, said Skobir.
Some 24 passengers, flying from Belgrade, landed at Ljubljana airport today, whereas about 40 flew back to Serbia on a return flight.
Among the first group was also a Slovenian who lives in Belgrade and tried to return to Slovenia multiple times during the epidemic but failed to do so until now due to lockdown measures.
The passenger reported that the flight had been without complications and that all the passengers had worn face masks with some even going as far as wearing gloves.
Government spokesman on coronavirus Jelko Kacin told the press at today's briefing that a total of twelve passengers arriving from Belgrade had to go into quarantine, whereas some preferred to return to their starting points after finding out about the measure.
Kacin pointed out that all the persons arriving from a third country had to undergo a mandatory quarantine period upon entering Slovenia regardless of their citizenship and residence.