THE GOVERNMENT has big plans for Bratislava's international airport that foresee the eventual sale of a majority stake. Among the interested parties is likely to be Vienna's airport authority.
If the government decides the bids on price alone, or in the unlikely case that the only bidder is Vienna, Slovakia's principal international airport could find itself in the hands of its nearest and biggest competitor.
Press reports suggest that Bratislava could be used as an overflow facility for Vienna's passenger traffic. It has also been suggested that Bratislava could handle much of the freight traffic that currently flies in and out of Vienna.
One immediate concern, if this were to happen, must surely be the increase in unwelcome heavy truck traffic through Bratislava and its outskirts that would necessarily result, although the D1 highway currently being constructed between the Slovak and Austrian capitals may alleviate this worry.
But the government needs to consider the wider picture and to think about the serious consequences of selling to Vienna Airport.
A central issue must be the danger that Bratislava could be utilised as a satellite facility only, denying Slovak travellers the opportunity to fly from much nearer to home.
But perhaps the most serious issue is that of customer choice. The early successes of SkyEurope shows how much can be achieved by private initiative and the ability to offer fliers a real choice. Perhaps, too, it has not escaped the attention of Vienna airport that many Austrian travellers are now using Bratislava airport. Thanks to being able to choose.
3. Mar 2003 at 0:00