Ryanair usurps LOT as leading international carrier; regional airports now handle more than 50% of all Polish traffic

Image: Dalai Lama in Gdansk
The Dalai Lama visited Gdansk in December, as celebrations marked the 25th anniversary of Lech Walesa being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Since anna.aero first analysed Poland’s air travel market there have been several significant developments. Passenger numbers across Poland’s top six airports grew by 23.8% in 2007 but slowed to a relatively modest 7.1% in 2008. The top six airports at Warsaw, Krakow, Katowice, Gdansk, Wroclaw and Poznan handled almost 20 million passengers last year. In 2003, the year before Poland gained EU member status, it was less than seven million.

Chart: Top 10
Source: Airport websites

In 2000 Warsaw handled just over three-quarters of all Poland’s air passengers but in 2008 this share fell to less than half. While Warsaw airport has grown to handle almost 10 million passengers, Poland’s regional airports have grown faster in percentage terms and now handle over half of all Polish air traffic.

Image: Top 6
Source: Derived from airport website data

For the first time ever, in 2008 Warsaw was not the fastest-growing Polish airport in terms of additional passengers. Its passenger numbers grew by less than 200,000 – a figure beaten by four other airports. Katowice’s growth of 21.6% last year resulted in over 400,000 additional passengers. While five of Poland’s six biggest airports grew in 2008, Krakow airport saw passenger numbers decline by just under 5%, primarily due to SkyEurope withdrawing nearly all of its services (to some 18 destinations) at the end of the summer 2007 season.

Chart: Top 6 Growth
Source: Derived from airport website data

LOT no longer leading carrier on international routes

Image: LOT plane on the runway
LOT currently offers 53 international routes of which 40 are from Warsaw. Both Ryanair and Wizz Air have overtaken LOT, offering 67 and 59 international routes respectively.

A year-on-year comparison reveals that LOT is no longer the leading provider of international seat capacity to and from Poland. In February 2008 it offered over 48,000 weekly departing seats on international routes plus an additional 17,000 seats provided by its in-house LCC Centralwings. However, Centralwings has since been closed down and LOT’s capacity has been cut by 15%.

Chart: Top 10 Int Airlines
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 18 February 2008 and w/c 16 February 2009

This has enabled Ryanair, which has increased its seat capacity in the Polish market by 45% in the last year, to take the lead. It now offers 67 international routes from nine Polish airports (but not Warsaw). Even Wizz Air, despite a 5% reduction in Polish capacity, offers 59 international routes and has also overtaken LOT in terms of seat capacity. LOT currently offers 53 international routes of which 40 are from Warsaw.

A year ago easyJet had been operating 16 routes to and from Poland, 14 of them from the UK. This year it has cut back to just nine routes with seven of them from the UK. The axed routes comprise of four routes from Gdansk, the Warsaw to Bristol route and links from Krakow to Bournemouth and Newcastle.

Image: Ryanair group photo
Ryanair is the leading carrier on international routes, having increased its seat capacity by 45% in the last year. In October, Katowice Airport celebrated its two-millionth passenger for the first time in a single year. Olga Rzebka was travelling on a Ryanair flight to Dublin.

UK & Irish capacity down 20%; Norway and Sweden up

Since last February, 20% of seat capacity has been removed from both the UK and Irish markets. The Austrian, Danish and French markets are also down around 20%. Capacity to/from Germany is virtually unchanged, while Italian capacity is up 10%. Belgium is up 14% but the fastest growing major markets are Norway (+17%) and Sweden (+19%). Overall capacity on all international routes is down around 11%.

Chart: Top 10 Countries
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 18 February 2008 and w/c 16 February 2009

In the domestic market capacity has also been reduced by 12% with LOT cutting its weekly flights by almost 20% from 524 to 422. However, Jet Air has increased its presence in the market by tripling its flights from 18 per week to 54 and doubling its network size to four routes. Despite this LOT still has an impressive 96% of the domestic market in terms of seat capacity.


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