Warsaw Airport: rapid growth but losing Polish market share

Image: Lech Plane

Norwegian is an exotic transplant from a non-EU country to Poland. Its Warsaw base receives a third aircraft in June as it takes on new routes to Rygge, Trondheim and Split. The Lech Walesa tail is not real – but anna.aero thinks the famous Pole would make a suitable edition to the Famous Norwegian series.

Image: centralwings girl in engine
Fall in love with Warsaw… …or a Centralwings flight attendant

Warsaw’s traffic growth may be slowing slightly (down from 18% in 2004 to 14% in 2007) but traffic has virtually doubled in just six years between 2001 and 2007, helped in no small measure by Poland joining the EU in May 2004. However, due to the dramatic growth of traffic at Poland’s regional airports Warsaw’s share of Polish airport traffic has actually fallen from 75% in 2003 to under 50% in 2007.

CHT WAW 95-07

Source: Warsaw Airport

Warsaw’s growth had been impressive even before Poland joined the EU and unlike many airports across Europe did not suffer particularly after ‚9/11′. Its seasonality profile shows that September is the peak month with demand lowest in February. The peak to off-peak ratio (September to February) in 2005 and 2006 was 1.83.

CHT WAW seasonality

Source: ICAO

LCCs still have a LOT to contend with

Logo: LOTDespite the rapidly growing presence of LCCs at Polish regional airports LOT remains the dominant force in Warsaw with nearly 60% of flights and over 45% of capacity. The flag carrier currently serves 57 destinations including eight in Poland and seven in Germany. Currently its only long-haul flights are to New York (JFK and Newark), Chicago and Toronto.

Airline Frequency Share Capacity Share Number of Domestic Routes
LOT 59.3% 46.2% 57
Wizz Air 4.9% 9.3% 15
Norwegian 3.3% 5.1% 13
Centralwings 2.8% 4.9% 12
Lufthansa 4.6% 4.2% 3
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 11 February 2008

LCCs have a total of 32% of scheduled capacity this winter. Apart from the three LCCs listed above easyJet flies to Bristol and London Luton, Germanwings to Cologne/Bonn and Stuttgart, while Ryanair and Aer Lingus both serve Dublin with daily flights. Click Air (to Barcelona), SkyEurope (to Vienna) and bmibaby (new routes to Cardiff and East Midlands began this week) complete the list of LCCs serving Warsaw.

Intense competition on key routes

Passengers wishing to fly to the main airports in Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Helsinki, Madrid, Munich, Rome and Vienna have a choice of three carriers while Paris is served by Wizz Air (to Beauvais), Air France, LOT (both to CDG) and Norwegian (to ORY). Similarly there are a variety of options to London; Centralwings to Gatwick, BA and LOT to Heathrow, easyJet and Wizz Air to Luton and Centralwings to Stansted. In the longer-term it seems unlikely that this level of competition is sustainable across all of these routes.

Norwegian adds third aircraft at Warsaw base

In July 2006 Oslo-based Norwegian set up a base at Warsaw and served 10 destinations during that first summer season. Routes to Dublin, Girona, Milan and Nice have since been dropped but Birmingham, Copenhagen, Munich, Paris, Salzburg and Stavanger have been added. This June, the airline will base a third aircraft in Warsaw, and launch new routes to Rygge, Trondheim and Split while increasing frequency on several other routes.

LCC terminal for outbound passengers only

Warsaw Airport has developed the Etiuda low-cost terminal used by departing passengers flying with all LCCs except Centralwings and Click Air. All arriving passengers, regardless of airline currently use the new Terminal 2. However, Terminal 2 is not due to start handling departing passengers until next month.

Beijing tops list of new routes in 2008

Image: dreamliner over beijing
Not a forbidden, but an underserved city: With an estimated 15-20 million Poles living outside Poland, Warsaw is an under-served long haul destination. However, Beijing will get a LOT service from the summer and also an Air China service starting later in the year.

Apart from the bmibaby and Norwegian routes already mentioned several other new routes have already been revealed for this year. Beijing will not only get a LOT service from summer but also an Air China service starting later in the year. British Airways is not only moving its Heathrow flights to Gatwick but also adding a new service to London City airport from May. Two new airlines for the airport will be Iceland Express and Volareweb who will offer links to Reykjavik and Milan Malpensa respectively starting this summer.


  1. Przemyslaw says:

    In 2010 Warsaw Chopin Airport reached 8.7 million pax which is close to 5 per cent more than in 2009. Read more here: http://rdir.pl/17oltz

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