You recently moved back to Bratislava after spending several years in the Czech Republic. On your return, what did you notice had changed in the airport?

Radek Zabransky: I left Bratislava when the construction of the new passenger terminal was just at its mid-point. Now, the new terminal, which was launched in 2012, is fully operational and it is fantastic, new, modern and comfortable for passengers. The good thing is that, since 2016, the airport has recovered from the heavy impact caused by the financial crisis, especially from the bankruptcies by local airlines SkyEurope and Air Slovakia, and the overall decrease in the demand for travel. This year, we hope to equalise – or even beat – the historical record in passenger volumes that we achieved in 2008.

How do you plan to secure growth in the future?

The aviation industry is in a state of constant change, but it is also very vulnerable to the political and economic fluctuations around the world. This means that we must be quite flexible and adapt to the changing environment. We should avoid unrealistic plans and ideas suitable for larger airports, and should focus our efforts and resources on areas where we can benefit from our strengths.

At the same time, we must react swiftly to developments and new trends within the industry. Just recently, we have restarted cooperation, and re-established regular communication, with natural airport stakeholders, such as the tourism section of the Ministry of Transport and Construction of the Slovak Republic, which is the central government agency responsible for promoting tourism in Slovakia, with the Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency, and with regional tourism boards as well as commercial entities and their representatives. The country is well worth visiting and has great tourism and economic potential – it just needs to be discovered. All stakeholders, as well as our shareholders, understand that, for the future success of the airport and of the routes operated there, the aircraft must be filled at both ends.

Having said that, we shall be looking to fill the gaps in our network, because there are still countries and destinations that are underserved. One of our most important activities will be to focus on connecting Bratislava with a major international hub, in order to improve Slovakia’s accessibility to the rest of the world. We are also investigating new opportunities, such as the newly emerging long-haul, low-cost concept. Here, we can offer potential partners and customers our considerable experience in handling such traffic and a very attractive charges scheme, as well as a catchment with passengers who are used to travelling low cost and are keen to continue do so. All of this can make our airport an attractive partner in central Europe.

Does this mean that you are going to be active in passenger traffic only?

Certainly not, even though passenger traffic is currently the dominant part of our business. We, naturally, have aspirations in cargo business as well. At the moment, the majority of cargo traffic is generated by DHL, which uses Bratislava as a regional hub. So, we have the necessary equipment and experienced staff that are well trained, including in ‘Dangerous Good Regulations’. We are capable of handling all sorts of cargo, such as live animals, valuables and perishables.

Finally, the overwhelming fact is that hub airports are becoming continually more congested. In the near future, we see a growing role in efficient cargo handling for regional airports like Bratislava.