Bernie Baldwin

From almost total lockdown, Slovakia’s primary air hub is making positive steps to a new normal.

Decisive, well-considered action in an unprecedented situation is always welcome, especially when lives are at stake. As Radek Zabransky, director aviation & strategic marketing, Bratislava Airport notes, Slovakia was the first European country to close all the borders. “This included aviation traffic and until [mid-June] unfortunately, the airports in Slovakia have still been closed for public transportation,” he adds.

“What is going to happened next? We assume that operations will be reinstated sometimes between the middle and end of June. Which destinations? Well, it is difficult to say because it will depend not only on airlines but also on countries to which we do have traffic,” Zabransky continues. “We know, for example, that Russia will be operating later – maybe the middle or end of summer – and other countries will still be closed for the summer season. We therefore expect very limited traffic, somewhere between 20 to 30% of the expected traffic planned for this year.”

Such uncertainty has at least given the airport time to consider carefully its postlockdown strategy to balance safety and an optimum level of operations. “It will mainly depend on what kind of precautionary measures will be implemented by our public health authorities. We will also follow the airlines’ recommendations, as well as those from IATA and ACI,” Zabransky comments. “We are already implementingprecautionary measures, so we do expect to be 80% prepared to commence operations and open the airport to the public. We believe that precautionary health measures will be harmonised across the EU so there will be no significant differences between countries and all these measures will be applicable in every country, which will definitely ease the passenger flow and requirements put forward to be fulfilled.

Being in lockdown has put pressure on everybody but the Bratislava team has tried to keep spirits high throughout. “The lockdown was not an easy exercise for all of us,” Zabransky admits. “Although the airport was closed for public transportation, we had a couple of repatriation flights and a few cargo flights operating to Bratislava, so operations staff were regularly on duty.

“So far as the administration is concerned, most of us were working from home, but I think we managed quite well,” he remarks. “We had been communicating over the phone, emails, WhatsApp, so we were informed and shared all our feelings and our ideas with our colleagues. I think we were able to keep our cooperation at the highest possible level considering the situation.”

Such teamwork will surely benefit the airport and help to realise its ambitions of rebuilding its route network over the coming months.