Slovenia's second city, Maribor, gets new London air-link

Budget airlines have been opening and closing routes across Europe for years now, as they scramble for new destinations and connections. After months of wrangling, Slovenia is set to open another airport (its second) to the budget carriers.

Rumors were flying for months. Would Slovenia's second largest city, Maribor, open up its airport to a budget airline? The first budget carrier in Slovenia, Easyjet, had already opened up a successful Ljubljana-London route and the capital city had benefitted substantially. According to the company, some 90,000 passengers flew on the Ljubljana-London route last year, 70% of them British.

The capital's tourism industry, predictably, boomed, registering 32% more overnight stays. A Ljubljana-Berlin route, however, floundered and was subsequently shut down.

Still, the competition is set to be fierce. Another carrier, Wizzair, has announced it would also offer a Ljubljana-London route starting in May. Tourism and government officials were hoping to repeat Ljubljana's success in Maribor. Talks dragged, however, on the suitability of Maribor's airport and on the investments necessary to get it ready.

But finally, the news came. Tomasz Kulakowski, Ryanair's sales and marketing executive, in Maribor last week:

"It's really a great pleasure today to announce that the biggest, largest low-fares airline arrives in Slovenia. Ryanair will start operations from Maribor airport to London Stansted."

The company expects 40,000 passengers in the first year. If successful, it will consider expanding the number of routes.

The Slovenian government agreed to step in with financial aid. It has already paid 300,000 euros for four airport vehicles. The company running the airport will put upwards of five million euros into various projects.