Celebration event marking the 60th
anniversary of Ljubljana Airport

It has been 60 years since passenger traffic began at Ljubljana Airport. At a celebratory event marking the airport's venerable jubilee, the airport operator provided insights into its rich history, successful traffic recovery, and outlined future projects for the development of airport infrastructure and services. The honorary speaker at the event was the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr. Nataša Pirc Musar, and the managing director of Fraport Slovenija, Dr. Babett Stapel, also addressed the guests.
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The story of Ljubljana Airport began symbolically on Christmas Eve. December 24, 1963, was not just about anticipating Christmas Day - it was the day when the first plane landed at Brnik. Regular air traffic was established on January 9, 1964, and this year, in 2024, we celebrate its venerable 60th anniversary. Six decades represent a period during which various challenges were faced, including the toughest ones that required rebuilding traffic from scratch. Despite the challenges, the airport operator has continuously focused on developing airport infrastructure, improving the quality of its services, and steadily increasing the number of passengers. Over the 60 years, more than 47.7 million passengers have travelled through the airport, with over 1.1 million aircraft movements recorded and approximately 662 thousand tons of cargo handled.

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The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr. Nataša Pirc Musar, who was the honorary speaker at the ceremony, began her speech with a personal story, highlighting fond memories associated with the airport when she worked as a stewardess while still a law student. "But I am convinced that Ljubljana Airport has not only remained etched in my heart but also in the hearts of many Slovenians, who have flown from here and still fly for vacations, business, and personal trips across Europe and the world," she added. The location of the airport is particularly beloved to the president: "Every time you disembark from a plane and gaze upon the majestic peaks of the nearby mountains, you cannot remain indifferent. You know you have flown back home," she said.

"I am delighted with your announcement of further stable growth in the number of passengers and gradual return to the levels you had been experiencing before the pandemic," she addressed the management of Fraport Slovenija, the operator of Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport, optimistically. She emphasized the importance of strengthening flight connections from Ljubljana Airport to improve Slovenia's air connectivity, directly linked to Slovenia's recognition as a tourist destination. "It is well known that good connections contribute to the growth of the local economy, increased tourist visits, and the creation of new jobs. Traffic multimodality is becoming a necessity for modern airports, as evidenced by examples of best practices in neighbouring countries," she emphasized, highlighting the need to establish a railway connection between Ljubljana Airport and the Slovenian railway network, particularly emphasizing the urgent need for a fast railway connection between the airport and the capital and nearby cities.

In conclusion, the president thanked all those who had been part of this story in the past, everyone who had diligently, professionally, and devotedly built this modern and efficient regional hub over the decades - an airport that is now celebrating its venerable 60 years of operation.

The president's speech in its entirety is available here in Slovene.

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The airport's anniversary is marked by strong growth in the number of passengers and successful traffic recovery. After a challenging period, during which the cessation of the national carrier's flights and the COVID-19 pandemic almost simultaneously occurred, resulting in an unimaginable loss of traffic for the airport, Ljubljana Airport is once again bustling. With the boom in tourist travel, passenger traffic is experiencing a rebirth and recording significant growth. In 2023, the airport counted over 1,270,000 passengers, 30 percent more than the previous year. Significant growth in the number of passengers continues. In the first three months of 2024, there were almost 28 percent more passengers compared to the same period last year.
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Dr. Babett Stapel, Managing Director of Fraport Slovenija, outlined the company's efforts to continue traffic development. "With stable traffic growth, we expect to serve around 1.4 million passengers by the end of the year. This will bring the number of passengers back to 92 percent of the pre-pandemic traffic volume," she explained, noting this number considers the absence of transfer passengers (about 200,000) who will not return to Ljubljana Airport due to established direct connections from Balkan countries to their final destinations.

This growth will be facilitated by the largest number of carriers to date - 22 will provide 25 flight connections in the summer schedule, including to major European and global hubs, ensuring connectivity with the world. Among the latest enhancements are flights to Luxembourg and upcoming ones to Riga and Copenhagen, scheduled to start at the end of April, with the help of subsidies allocated by the state to improve air connectivity. In late July, a new connection to Madrid will join the series. The rich offer of Ljubljana Airport will be complemented by charter flights to 57 holiday destinations.

Dr. Stapel highlighted efforts to strengthen connections to important air hubs, add new connections, optimize flight schedules, and increase the share of low-cost carrier flights in traffic development plans. Fraport Slovenija aims to position Ljubljana Airport as the airport of choice in the region.

She emphasized that to enhance the competitiveness of Ljubljana Airport and its significance for the region, Fraport Slovenija continues to invest in airport infrastructure, equipment, and IT technology. "From 2014 to 2023, we invested €73 million in airport development," she explained. The most extensive investment in this recent period was the €23 million investment in the new terminal, which opened its doors to passengers in the summer of 2021. With this new addition, Ljubljana Airport has been ranked among modern European airports, with significantly improved user experience for passengers, higher service levels, and a friendlier working environment for employees. "This year and next year, we plan to invest €25 million. Half of this will be allocated to the construction of a new taxiway J and the complete renovation of part of taxiway A, as well as the renovation and reorganization of the main airport apron," she explained about the ongoing investment cycle, adding: "Since taking over the management of the airport in 2014, Fraport Slovenija will invest extensive funds in Slovenian public infrastructure until 2035, totaling €200 million." The company's investments in the future will also focus on achieving a green transition - by 2045, Ljubljana Airport will become a carbon-neutral airport.

Among the company's priorities, the managing director highlighted digitalization and automation, focusing on optimizing airport operational procedures and upgrading services for passengers. Ljubljana Airport is one of the first in the world to use artificial intelligence-supported tools from Assaia for more predictable and faster aircraft turnaround times. Presumably, before summer, the airport will introduce self-bag drop points for passengers in the terminal. In the future, remote-controlled aircraft towing and autonomous baggage towing are planned on the apron.

Sustainable growth, innovation, efficiency, and user focus are priorities that permeate Fraport Slovenija's strategy and also the strategy of the Fraport Group, to which Ljubljana Airport belongs. "Connecting the world with tomorrow" is the mission that Fraport pursues through its home airport in Frankfurt and all its airports worldwide. Fraport AG is one of the leading global players in airport management. It is committed to enhancing value sustainably, with responsibility to local stakeholders, the economy, society, and the environment. Its broad range of management and advisory solutions is based on over a century of expertise and experience in aviation.

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Prvo letalo tipa DC 6B slovenskega letalskega prevoznika, ki se je v tem obdobju imenoval Adria Aviopromet (kasneje Adria Airways), je na ravno takrat odprtem letališču pristalo 24. decembra 1963, redni letalski promet pa je bil vzpostavljen 9. januarja naslednje leto. Leta 1964 je stekla druga faza še ne dograjenega letališča in bila tudi dokončana, na 3.000 metrov je bila podaljšana vzletno-pristajalna steza in povečana letališka ploščad. V letu 1968 so v podjetju začrtali nove smeri razvoja letališča: vzpostavitev rednega domačega in mednarodnega prometa, razvoj letalskega tovornega prometa ter oblikovanje zbirnega centra zanj. Najbolj vidni rezultati teh usmeritev so bili novi potniški terminal (1973), tovorni terminal (1976), rekonstrukcija vzletno-pristajalne steze (1978), vključitev v redni domači in mednarodni promet in odprtje interkontinentalne linije z New Yorkom (1978). Obdobje po letu 1980 sta zaznamovala neugodna gospodarska situacija doma in v svetu ter relativno zmanjšano investiranje v razvoj.
Z osamosvojitvijo Slovenije je ljubljansko letališče postalo osrednje državno letališče, hkrati pa se je soočilo z znatnim upadom prometa zaradi političnih in vojnih dogodkov na tleh nekdanje Jugoslavije. 26. junija ob 13:30 se je zaprl zračni prostor nad Slovenijo in s tem letališče. Zapora je z večjimi in manjšimi izjemami, ko je letališče vendarle bilo odprto, trajala do sredine februarja 1992. Ta čas je Aerodrom Ljubljana izrabil za prenovo letališke stavbe, obnovo letališke ploščadi za parkiranje letal ter uvajanje informatike za letališko osebje in potnike. Slovenski letalski prevoznik Adria Airways je postal največji partner Aerodroma Ljubljana. Zaradi znižanega prometa na letališču se je ponudila priložnost za preplastitev vzletno-pristajalne steze. V letih 1992 in 1993 je bila izvedena večja razširitev potniškega terminala. Postavljen je bil tudi sodobni radar za precizno pristajanje. Podjetje je leta 1996 zaključilo postopek lastninskega preoblikovanja, naslednje leto pa je bila družba Aerodrom Ljubljana vpisana v sodni register kot delniška družba. Leta 1999 se je letališče z dovoljenjem za obratovanje v pogojih zmanjšane vidljivosti CAT III B vpisalo med okoli 100 letališč na svetu s takšno opremo.
Leto 2001 je bilo za svetovni letalski promet zelo slabo leto, kar je občutilo tudi ljubljansko letališče. Po terorističnem napadu v New Yorku 11. septembra se je svetovni letalski promet znašel v krizi, saj je število potnikov čez noč drastično upadlo. V letu 2003, ko je letališče praznovalo 40 let, so začeli z gradnjo hangarja za splošno letalstvo in ureditvijo ploščadi za splošno letalstvo. Leta 2004 je prek letališča prvič v zgodovini potovalo več kot milijon potnikov letno. To leto je na nek način pomenilo prelomnico v razvoju prometa – ponudbo letov je prvič obogatil nizkocenovni prevoznik, britanski easyJet na liniji za London-Stansted. V nadaljevanju je letališče začelo dobivati podobo, kakršno imajo sodobna letališča po svetu. V letu 2005 je bila zgrajena sodobno opremljena parkirna hiša s poslovnim prizidkom in v letu 2006 razširjena glavna ploščad za letala. Leta 2007 je promet zaživel v novem potniškem terminalu, letališče pa se je po odločitvi vlade preimenovalo v Letališče Jožeta Pučnika Ljubljana. V okviru obsežnega investicijskega ciklusa je bila v tem letu podaljšana tudi vozna steza za letala. Letališče se je začelo razvijati v vozlišče za tovorni promet. Zaradi posledic gospodarske krize se je v letu 2009 ljubljansko letališče soočilo z znatnim upadom prometa, a Aerodrom Ljubljana kljub nižjim prihodkom ni odstopil od načrta vlaganj v osnovno infrastrukturo – prenovljena in razširjena je bila glavna letališka ploščad, temeljito prenovljene pa so bile tudi vzletno-pristajalna steza, spojnice in vozna steza vzdolž nje.
Trend upadanja prometa se je obrnil leta 2013. Vlada RS je družbo Aerodrom Ljubljana umestila na seznam družb v pretežni državni lasti za prodajo. Prelomnico v zgodovini letališča predstavlja prodaja podjetja strateškemu lastniku, nemškemu upravljavcu letališč Fraport AG, ki je leta 2014 podpisal pogodbo o nakupu 75,5 odstotkov delnic. V začetku 2015 je večinski lastnik, Fraport AG, pridobil 100-odstotni delež v Aerodromu Ljubljana, družba pa je bila preoblikovana iz delniške v družbo z omejeno odgovornostjo. Pomemben korak za nadaljnji razvoj letališča je bil v letu 2016 začetek prestavitve odseka ceste mimo letališča. Družba Aerodrom Ljubljana se je leta 2017 preimenovala v Fraport Slovenija. Leto 2018 je ljubljansko letališče zaključilo z rekordnim številom sprejetih potnikov, 1.818.229. V 2019 je domači prevoznik Adria Airways objavil stečaj in prenehal z letenjem. Stekla so gradbena dela za razširitev novega potniškega terminala. V 2020 je bila razglašena svetovna pandemija koronavirusa SARS-CoV-2, ki je ustavila svetovni potniški letalski promet. Popolna prepoved komercialnih letov je v slovenskem zračnem prostoru veljala dva meseca. Svetovni letalski potniški promet je zaradi ukrepov za zajezitev širjenja koronavirusa, ki so jih sprejele države po vsem svetu, drastično upadel. Pandemija je tudi v letu 2021 hromila letalski potniški promet, letalski prevozniki so se začeli postopoma vračati na ljubljansko letališče. 1. julija 2021 je bil odprt nov potniški terminal. Z modernim objektom na 10.000 m2 je Fraport Slovenija uporabnikom ponudil višjo kakovost in večjo pestrost storitev ter boljše delovno okolje, ljubljansko letališče pa uvrstil med moderna evropska letališča. Septembra 2021 je nizkocenovni letalski prevoznik flydubai vzpostavil neposredno povezavo z Združenimi arabskimi emirati z leti v Dubaj. Ta je kot prva redna letalska linija z destinacijo izven Evrope od osamosvojitve Slovenije naprej pomenila svojevrstno prelomnico za razvoj prometa. Ob povečanju povpraševanja po oskrbi letalskih palet se je družba odločila investirati v nadgraditev objektov za oskrbo tovora in aprila 2023 odprla razširjen del tovornega terminala z nameščeno novo tehnološko opremo za učinkovitejši sprejem in odpremo blaga. V letu 2023 je Letališče Ljubljana prvič po letu 2019 spet pozdravilo milijontega potnika. Do konca leta je naštelo skupaj več kot 1.270.000 potnikov in zabeležilo 30-odsotno letno rast potniškega prometa.


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