60 years of passenger traffic at Ljubljana Airport marked by strong growth in passenger numbers
It has been 60 years since passenger traffic commenced at Ljubljana Airport. The first regular connections to Belgrade, Dubrovnik, and London were provided by the former Yugoslav airline JAT, while Adria-aviopromet flew to Belgrade and Algiers. The beginnings were modest, with just 78,000 passengers handled in 1964. Today, Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport stands as a modern and efficient regional gateway—a hub of opportunities for individuals, society, and the broader global community. The venerable jubilee is marked by a strong growth in passenger traffic and successful recovery after a challenging period, during which the bankruptcy of Adria Airways left the airport without its largest business partner and faced an unimaginable loss of traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2023, Ljubljana Airport concluded the year with a 30% annual increase in passenger numbers, with more than 1,270,000 passengers. In the summer schedule, 22 carriers will be flying from Ljubljana Airport offering at least 26 routes.
Over the course of 60 years, the airport has welcomed more than 47.7 million passengers, recorded over 1.1 million aircraft movements, and handled approximately 662,000 tons of cargo. A brief overview of the history, highlighting the development of the company, traffic, and airport infrastructure, is available at the end of this release.
Throughout the six decades, the airport manager has continuously focused on the development of airport infrastructure, improving the quality of its services, and consistently increasing the number of passengers at the airport. Among Fraport Slovenija's priorities is the recovery of passenger traffic to pre-epidemic levels and enhancing Slovenia's air connectivity. Through investments in the development of airport infrastructure and providing quality services, the company ensures the continuous increase in the competitiveness of Ljubljana Airport. From 2014 to 2023, since taking over the management of Ljubljana Airport, Fraport Slovenija has invested €67 million in infrastructure, IT, and equipment development. It plans to invest nearly the same amount by 2030, totalling around €130 million. With the new terminal, representing the most significant investment in recent years (€23 million), Ljubljana Airport has positioned itself among modern European airports. The next investment cycle focuses on the modernization and expansion of airport manoeuvring areas and achieving a green transition—by 2045, Ljubljana Airport aims to become a carbon-free airport.
30% growth in passenger traffic exceeded expectations
In 2023, Ljubljana Airport concluded with an excellent 30% growth in passenger traffic compared to 2022. The passenger terminal buzzed with passengers reminiscent of pre-pandemic times. In public passenger transport, more than 1,270,000 passengers travelled on flights to 23 regular and 39 charter destinations. The destinations with most passengers were Istanbul, London, Frankfurt, Paris, and Zurich. A comparison with the pre-pandemic year 2019 shows that connections to Istanbul, Paris, Warsaw, Zurich, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, and Niš have already surpassed passenger numbers from that period. Charter traffic also recovered to the 2019 level, with over 151,000 passengers.
26 destinations in the summer schedule, including new routes to Riga, Madrid, and Copenhagen
Currently, in the winter schedule offering two new destinations—Luxembourg and Skopje—flights to 18 destinations are provided by 15 carriers. The flight network is steadily growing with new destinations and additional frequencies on existing routes. In the upcoming summer schedule, starting in late March, 22 airlines will be offering flights to 26 destinations. Three new connections will be established. AirBaltic will commence flights to Riga at the end of April, Iberia will start flying to Madrid in late July, and Norwegian has announced a new connection to Copenhagen. After the winter break, Finnair will resume flights to Helsinki, and Aegean Airlines will return with a connection to Athens. Preliminary forecasts from carriers for the upcoming summer season indicate a 10% increase in flight frequencies on regular routes. In the summer schedule, for example, there will be two daily flights to Munich, improving Ljubljana Airport's connectivity by the end of March. Compared to the previous summer season, carriers also predict more frequent flights on connections to Belgrade, Brussels, London Heathrow, Paris, Skopje, Warsaw, and Zurich.
"2023 brought a revival for Ljubljana Airport. An excellent 30% annual growth in passenger numbers is a sign that traffic recovery is on the right track. We are making strong efforts to bring the flight network back to pre-epidemic levels. This year will also see new destinations—Riga, Copenhagen, and Madrid—along with increased frequencies on some routes, including to major European hubs. This will significantly improve Slovenia's air connectivity with the world. We are pleased that the 60th anniversary of the airport is marked by vibrant tourism, strong traffic growth, and an increasingly diverse flight offer. The positive results support our commitment and vision for Ljubljana Airport to become the airport of choice for the region once again," said Dr. Babett Stapel, Managing Director of Fraport Slovenija, about the results of the past year and the airport’s anniversary.
A special visual identity accompanies the high airport jubilee with the slogan "Ljubljana Airport – Heart of possibilities for over 60 years." Numerous interesting content pieces, shedding light on the airport's development over six decades, will be available in the coming months on Fraport Slovenija's online channels and at the airport itself, in the form of videos and exhibition. In those the stories of dedicated and passionate individuals—current and retired employees of the company—will come to life. Several events are also planned for the internal and business community, as well as for passengers and the airport community.
Brief presentation of history with highlights from the development of the company, traffic, and airport infrastructure
The first DC-6B aircraft of the Slovenian airline, then named Adria Aviopromet (later Adria Airways), landed at the newly opened airport on December 24, 1963, with regular air traffic commencing on January 9 the following year. In 1964, the second phase of the unfinished airport was initiated and completed, extending the runway to 3,000 meters and enlarging the airport apron. In 1968, the company outlined new directions for the airport's development: establishing regular domestic and international traffic, developing air cargo traffic, and forming a consolidation center for it. The most visible results of these directions were a new passenger terminal (1973), a cargo terminal (1976), the reconstruction of the runway (1978), inclusion in regular domestic and international traffic, and the opening of an intercontinental route to New York (1978). The period after 1980 was marked by an unfavourable economic situation at home and abroad, as well as relatively reduced investment in development.
The year 2001 was a very challenging year for global air traffic, which also affected Ljubljana Airport. After the terrorist attack on New York on September 11, world air traffic entered a crisis as passenger numbers drastically dropped overnight. In 2003, celebrating its 40th year, the airport began constructing a hangar for general aviation and expanding the general aviation apron. In 2004, the airport exceeded one million passengers annually for the first time in its history. That year marked a turning point in traffic development, with the introduction of flights by the low-cost carrier easyJet on the London-Stansted route. Subsequently, the airport started to resemble modern airports worldwide.
In 2005, a modern parking garage with a business annex was built, and in 2006, the main aircraft apron was expanded. In 2007, operations began in the new passenger terminal, and following a government decision, the airport was renamed Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport. As part of an extensive investment cycle, the runway for aircraft was also extended that year. The airport started developing into a hub for cargo traffic. With the economic crisis in 2009, Ljubljana Airport faced a significant decline in traffic, but Aerodrom Ljubljana, despite lower revenues, did not deviate from its plan to invest in basic infrastructure. The main airport apron was renovated and expanded, and the runway, connectors, and the taxiway alongside it were thoroughly renovated.
The trend of declining traffic reversed in 2013. The Slovenian government placed Aerodrom Ljubljana on the list of companies predominantly owned by the state for sale. A pivotal moment in the airport's history was the sale of the company to the German airport operator Fraport AG, which signed a purchase agreement for 75.5% of the shares in 2014. In early 2015, the majority owner, Fraport AG, acquired a 100% stake in Aerodrom Ljubljana, and the company was transformed from a joint-stock company into a limited liability company. An important step for the further development of the airport was the start of the relocation of the road section past the airport in 2016. In 2017, Aerodrom Ljubljana was renamed Fraport Slovenija. In 2018, Ljubljana Airport concluded the year with a record number of passengers, totaling 1,818,229. In 2019, the domestic carrier Adria Airways declared bankruptcy and ceased operations. Construction work began on expanding the new passenger terminal. In 2020, the global pandemic of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus was declared, halting global passenger air traffic. A complete ban on commercial flights in the Slovenian airspace lasted for two months. Due to measures taken by countries worldwide to curb the spread of the coronavirus, global passenger air traffic drastically declined. The pandemic continued to impact passenger air traffic in 2021, and airlines gradually started returning to Ljubljana Airport. On July 1, 2021, the new passenger terminal was opened. With a modern facility of 10,000 m2, Fraport Slovenija offered users higher quality and a greater variety of services, creating a better working environment and positioning Ljubljana Airport among modern European airports. In September 2021, the low-cost carrier flydubai established a direct connection with the United Arab Emirates, with flights to Dubai. This marked a unique milestone for the development of traffic as the first regular air route outside Europe since Slovenia's independence. With an increased demand for handling of air pallets, the company decided to invest in upgrading cargo facilities and, in April 2023, opened the expanded part of the cargo terminal with new technological equipment for more efficient cargo reception and dispatch. In 2023, Ljubljana Airport welcomed its one millionth passenger for the first time since 2019, and by the end of the year handled more than 1,270,000 passengers.