LOT’s long-haul routes now all-787 Dreamliner; Euro routes from Warsaw under big pressure

Connecting the Poles, LOT's new routes

Brazil’s 2 million Poles make up the second biggest long-haul concentration after the USA’s 10 million Poles. This year Curitiba – Brazil’s largest Polish community – celebrated the anniversary of Stanisław Skarżyński’s first transatlantic solo flight from Africa to Brazil in 1933 with an exhibition“Brave Polish Airman in the Brazilian Sky.” 80 years later anna.aero also wonders if brave Polish airline executives flying 787s will soon stray into Brazilian skies once more.

Saturday 10 August 2013 was a momentous day for LOT Polish Airlines. For the first time, all of its long-haul destinations (Beijing, Chicago, New York and Toronto) were served only by its fleet of five Boeing 787 Dreamliners. These are the airline’s four biggest routes from its home base at Warsaw Chopin Airport, with the transatlantic destinations alone accounting for just over half of all the airline’s ASKs (Available Seat Kilometres) from the airport. Given the aircraft’s superior operating economics compared with the Boeing 767s that it replaces, the airline will hope that this might signal the start of a major improvement in its financial performance. It lost over $120 million in its last financial year, and it is also hoping for compensation from Boeing regarding the grounding of the 787s earlier this year.

LOT's top 12 routes from Warsaw - 1 By weekly departing ASKs (millions)

Source: Innovata / Diio Mi for w/c 12 August 2013

After the airline’s four long-haul routes, the next biggest route in terms of ASKs is the airline’s three times-daily route to London Heathrow, which generates almost 60% more ASKs than any other of the airline’s short or medium-haul routes.

Domestic routes dominate seat capacity

Unlike Hungary’s Malév, with which there are some very superficial comparisons, and which had no domestic network to support long-haul services, Poland’s larger geographical size and much bigger population results in LOT’s top three routes, as measured by weekly seats, all being domestic. The airline’s transatlantic routes all offer more weekly seats than any of the European airports served, apart from London, and Frankfurt.

LOT's top 12 routes from Warsaw - 2 By weekly departing seats

Source: Innovata / Diio Mi for w/c 12 August 2013 NB. Includes services operated by eurolot subsidiary

LOT and eurolot – really helping each other?

Formed in 1996, eurolot (which has its own code of K2), operates flights both under its own name (via its own website) and also on some regional and domestic services on behalf of LOT. Between them the two airlines operate a fleet of over 60 aircraft, which is notable for not including any Airbus and just a handful of Boeing aircraft. Its short and medium-haul fleet comprise a mix of ATRs, Bombardier Q400s, and over 30 Embraer E-jets, and just four pretty old 737-400s. Analysis of schedule data over the last couple of years shows that routes are occasionally passed between the two carriers.

eurolot has been keen to test regional domestic routes in Poland, and operates three from Gdansk; to Krakow, Wroclaw, and most recently to Lublin. In a bold move to try something different, the carrier began low-frequency seasonal domestic flights in Germany in May, linking Cologne/Bonn and Dortmund, with Heringsdorf, on the island of Usedom in northern Germany.

Exactly what the EU was designed to encourage: Poland's eurolot began weekly, summer services linking the German airports of Cologne/Bonn and Heringsdorf in May, replacing airberlin which had withdrawn from the route.

German market confusion: Berlin dropped, Stuttgart started, Hannover served briefly

In fact, given the financial issues surrounding the airline, its route network has remained surprisingly stable in the last 12 months. US flights to Newark ceased at the end of last October, while the airline’s three-times weekly service to Donetsk in Ukraine stopped being served at the end of March this year. The highest profile route casualty so far has been the double-daily service to Berlin Tegel, which ended on 31 July. airberlin had started competing on the relatively short 525-kilometre route at the end of March, with up to three daily flights using Q400s.

The German market clearly remains challenging for LOT, as it resumed services to Stuttgart last November (which are still operating), but also re-introduced flights to Hannover last October, which only lasted until early February.

Stuttgart 1, Hannover 0 – not a score from the German Bundesliga, but the result of LOT's attempt to grow in the German market. Both routes were started from Warsaw late last year, but while the Stuttgart route has survived, the Hannover route was dropped in early February.

Competition increasing in Warsaw as Wizz Air decides to stay at Chopin

After moving its Warsaw operations from Chopin to Warsaw Modlin airport last summer, Wizz Air has decided to return permanently to Warsaw Chopin, after a number of operational issues at the end of last year led to a temporary closure of the new, lower-cost airport. Direct competition from Ryanair at Warsaw Modlin may also have been a factor. Ryanair is also still operating from Chopin, but is considering a move back to Modlin from the end of October.

In the last 18 months, apart from the Ryanair services, and the short-lived OLT Express, several other carriers have added Warsaw routes to their networks. These include Aegean Airlines to Athens, airberlin to Berlin, Air One to Milan Malpensa and Venice, Emirates to Dubai, Qatar Airways to Doha, Ukraine International Airlines to Kiev, and WOW air to Reykjavik.

Excluding the airline’s long-haul and domestic destinations from Warsaw, LOT faces direct competition on 14 of its top 20 international routes (as measured by weekly seats), with only Brussels, Bucharest, Hamburg, Madrid, Milan Malpensa (Air One services ended in early February), and Vilnius having the luxury of no competing airlines.

Country Market Airport LOT WF Competition (WF)
Austria Vienna (VIE) 13 Austrian Airlines (21)
Czech Republic Prague (PRG) 15 CSA Czech Airlines (14)
Denmark Copenhagen (CPH) 11 SAS (6)
France Paris CDG (CDG) 16 Air France (22)
Germany Frankfurt (FRA)
Munich (MUC)
Lufthansa (28)
Lufthansa (20)
Hungary Budapest (BUD) 15 Wizz Air (4), Ryanair (3)
Israel Tel Aviv (TLV) 7 El Al (5), Travel Service Polska (3)
Netherlands Amsterdam (AMS) 13 KLM (21)
Russia Moscow (SVO) 11 Aeroflot (14)
Spain Barcelona (BCN) 7 Ryanair (3), Wizz Air (2)
Switzerland Zurich (ZRH) 12 SWISS (21)
Ukraine Kiev (KBP) 10 Ukraine International Airlines (7)
United Kingdom London Heathrow (LHR) 20 British Airways (14)
Source: Innovata / Diio Mi for 12-18 August 2013

On most of these routes ‘competition’ comes from legacy carriers, although given that LOT is a member of the Star Alliance, how much genuine competition there is on routes to Copenhagen (SAS), Frankfurt (Lufthansa), Munich (Lufthansa), Vienna (Austrian Airlines), and Zurich (SWISS) is a matter of debate.

More long-haul routes to be announced soon as three more 787s due?

With the operational issues that have affected the 787 in recent months hopefully all sorted, LOT can look forward to receiving the last three of the eight aircraft it ordered (seven of them as long ago as 2005) in due course. This will open up the possibility of more long-haul routes for the airline, though none have been announced so far.

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  1. André Orban says:

    You state that LOT has no competition on the Brussels route? In fact LOT (21 weekly flights to Brussels Airport) faces stiff competition from Wizz Air and Ryanair (each 7 weekly flights to Brussels South Charleroi Airport).

    • We did say ‘direct competition’. As you say LOT faces indirect competition on the Brussels route from Ryanair and Wizz Air’s services to Brussels Charleroi Airport (CRL). LOT, of course, serves Brussels Zaventum Airport (BRU).

  2. Pawel says:

    I believe the WF of flights to Budapest is 17 now, not 15.

  3. Karol B says:

    “The airline’s transatlantic routes all offer more weekly seats than any of the European airports served, apart from London, and Frankfurt”

    How LO from Warsaw can offer moire seats on transatlantic routes than AF from CDG or KL from AMS ?

    • I think you mis-understood what we were trying to say. We were not suggesting that LOT offers more seats on transatlantic routes than say AF from CDG or KL from AMS, but that LOT offers more seats from WAW to JFK, ORD and YYZ than it (LOT) offers from WAW to CDG, VNO, MUC etc.

  4. fil says:

    You wrote: “This will open up the possibility of more long-haul routes for the airline, though none have been announced so far.”
    LOT will open with two big polish travel agencies few charter routes on 787: Bangkok, Varadero, Colombo, Cancun, Mombasa, Punta Cana and Venezuela.

    Probably LOT in close future will open only one new long-haul route – Tokyo (Washington is possible too)

    Even if LOT has planes to open more long-haul routes it can’t do it, due to European Commission rules connected with staid aid for LOT.

  5. Arthur Dent says:

    It looks like the European route cull will begin this winter. DUS, HEL, NCE, FCO, STR and ZRH routes from WAW facing the axe, along with routes to Germany from KTW, KRK and POZ.

  6. shamen66 says:

    LOT should have concentrated on more exotic routes like Havana, Rio de Janeiro, Cancun, Bangkok, Sydney, Tokyo.
    Instead of flying to Russia or Georgia.

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