Slovakia’s Hidden Gem

Away from the hustle and bustle of Bratislava lies one of the country’s best-kept secrets, Žilina Airport. Serving the regional capital, this small facility is working hard to attract new airlines, as Jessica Bannister-Pearce finds out.

The airside entrance to Žilina’s wellmaintained terminal. To the right is former Slovak government Yakovlev Yak-40 OM-BYL (c/n 9940560), which is on display. All images author

The origins of an airport at Žilina first appeared in the 1970s. However, there wasn’t much to see at the time, just a simple concrete runway, built by the local aero club. The maiden flight here took place on May 4, 1972 though the facility itself wouldn’t get its official opening for more than two years. The initial commercial service took place when Czechoslovakian airline, Slov-Air launched a service to Prague on August 2, 1974 using domestically designed and manufactured Let-410s. With just 19 seats, the little aircraft was perfect for its short runway. The link remained until the energy crisis brought about by the Iran/Iraq war in the early 1980s, which made the route unprofitable, even for a socialist country.

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