Slovak Airlines has picked up speed since getting its license back on August 5.
photo: Spectator Archives
SA Director Pavol Mladý said the new regular flight to Munich would link Bratislava's M.R. Štefánik airport with the ninth busiest airport in Europe. "Munich has good connections with many important destinations around the world, so Bratislava airport will now have an indirect link with the world's biggest airports," Mladý said.
Mladý added that the Munich connection did not presage a boom in regular flights from Bratislava to world capitals. "This [Bratislava] airport is only a regional one, so the key to getting Slovakia better connected with the rest of the world doesn't lie in direct flights but in the effective connection of our airport with important hubs," he said.
However, state officials may have a grander destiny in store for the Bratislava airport, which has long been overshadowed by Vienna's busy Schwechat. Branislav Kvasnica, director of the Civil Aviation Department at the Transport Ministry, said it would be a pity if Bratislava remained only a starting and final destination for travellers, instead of a transit point serving the entire region. "Bratislava has all the requirements to become a transit point," Kvasnica said, explaining that Slovak airports are well equipped and can compete with the airports of neighbouring countries.
"To achieve this goal, we need only establish good connections with neighbouring countries," Kvasnica continued. "I think we should take advantage of our good location. Of course, we cannot compete with Vienna, but we would certainly have a chance to compete with airports like Brno and Budapest."
But Mladý said he did not buy the ministry vision. Bratislava airport has been used by 300,000 passengers so far in 1999, while the same number of Slovaks alone have travelled through Vienna's Schwechat airport. Given the advantages of Vienna, Mladý said, it was unrealistic for Slovakia to try to compete as a major transit point.
After being stripped of its operating license for seven months in 1999, following a dispute with the Transport Ministry over the firm's ownership structure, SA is now trying to make up for its losses. Mladý said that it was "too early" to discuss SA's current financial results, but said that the firm would likely lose "several tens of millions of crowns" in 1999.
The new Saab aircraft SA has leased, Mladý said, were financed by two major shareholders - Willy a.s. (owned by SA's Chairman of the Board Viliam Veteška) and the Devín Group. Willy owns 37.68% of SA, while Devín owns 20.91%. The Transport Ministry owns another 34% of the firm, but intends to sell its stake at the end of 2000.
Next year, SA hopes to at least break even, and to achieve a 70:30 ratio between charter and regular flights. By the year 2005, the firm plans to have a 50:50 balance in types of flights.