LOT Polish Airlines capacity up 20% in 2016 but still behind Ryanair in Poland; US routes key to growth in 2017 as fleet will reach 50 aircraft
This year has been a significant one for LOT Polish Airlines as it reverses three years of capacity declines by growing its annual seat capacity by an estimated 23%. For most of the last decade the Polish flag carrier has been offering between six and seven million seats per annum across its network (according to OAG data), but this year that figure has jumped to over 7.5 million. This is primarily because the airline was allowed to resume services on a number of routes that it had been forced to suspend as part of EU sanctions against the airline for accepting state aid from the Polish government. However, these restrictions were lifted at the beginning of 2016, resulting in the airline (re-)launching six routes in the first day two days of this year. Subsequently the Star Alliance carrier launched (or resumed) service on another 14 routes up until the end of September. This week it launched a new long-haul service to Seoul Incheon using its 787s.
Share of Polish market falls but rebounds slightly in 2016
A decade ago, LOT accounted for almost 40% of all seats at Polish airports, with its low-cost subsidiary Centralwings adding a further 6%. However, Centralwings was shut down at the end of 2008, and LOT’s share of the Polish market came under pressure from the rise of LCCs, notably Ryanair and Wizz Air. Between 2011 and 2015 LOT’s share of the Polish market fell from 33% to 23% before picking up again this year. Ryanair overtook LOT in 2015 to become the leading airline in Poland as measured by seat capacity. Wizz Air’s market share reached 20% in 2010 but has not grown significantly since.
North American routes lead way for ASKs
Analysis of the airline’s ASKs (Available Seat Kilometres) this summer by route, which gives a better indication of which destinations generate the most revenue, reveals the significance of the airline’s North American network. Chicago O’Hare, New York JFK and Toronto Pearson each generate twice as many ASKs as the next biggest route, Tokyo Narita. The biggest European routes by ASKs (which takes into account aircraft size, frequency and sector length) are London Heathrow and Paris CDG, though in terms of flights operated from Warsaw Chopin this summer, Prague and Budapest were served most often.
Genuinely new destinations for LOT this summer (or at least not operated for the last decade) included Cluj-Napoca in Romania, Kharkiv in Ukraine, Košice in Slovakia, Luxembourg, Palanga in Lithuania, Tokyo Narita and Zagreb in Croatia.
Germany is leading international country market by seats.
LOT’s domestic network comprises eight routes from Warsaw Chopin to Gdansk, Krakow, Katowice, Olsztyn-Mazury (new for 2016), Poznan, Rzeszów, Szczecin and Wroclaw, as well as a route between Gdansk and Krakow. Its international route network touches 39 countries, with South Korea being the latest addition. In terms of seat capacity over the S16 season, Germany comes out top, accounting for just over 11% of international seat capacity. LOT operates multiple daily flights to Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich. It is worth noting that unlike TAROM, which does offer some international services from regional airports in Romania, LOT does not currently operate any international routes from anywhere other than Warsaw.
More new US routes for 2017
Looking ahead, LOT has already revealed that it will resume flights to New York Newark next summer (last served in 2012) and launch a new service to Los Angeles in April. Notable routes once served by LOT but not currently served include Berlin, Cairo, Dublin, Helsinki, Lyon, Manchester, Oslo and Rome. OAG data currently available for August 2017 suggests that LOT has suspended operations for next summer to Palanga and Split.
Next year will also see the airline receive several 737-800 NGs, as well as the airline’s first 737-800 MAX. LOT also announced last week that it would grow its long-haul fleet from six to eight 787-8s. The two additional aircraft will be used to operate the new Newark and LAX services. By the end of 2017, the airline’s fleet should comprise in excess of 50 aircraft, including 10 Q400s, 24 Embraers (a mix of E170s, E175s and E190s) and some older 737-400s.