On 7 July LOT Polish Airlines announced direct flights from Budapest to New York JFK and Chicago O’Hare. The first flight, with both routes scheduled to be flown on the Star Alliance member’s 787-8s, is due to launch on 3 May 2018, with JFK being flown four times weekly and O’Hare twice-weekly. The return of US services comes after American Airlines and Delta Air Lines left the Hungarian market in 2011. anna.aero, which was kindly invited by Budapest Airport to witness this announcement, managed to catch a moment with the airline’s CEO and President Rafał Milczarski, who shared the airport’s efforts to keep expanding. “LOT would love to be Central Europe’s favourite airline,” he says.
The 7 July was undoubtedly a day filled with emotions for Budapest Airport, as well as LOT Polish Airlines. After months of hard work and collaboration between the three countries of Hungary, Poland and the US, the airport welcomed the announcement that services to the US will be relaunched, with LOT announcing that it will begin services to Chicago O’Hare and New York JFK. During the launch ceremony, attendees welcomed the arrival of one of the carrier’s 787-8s, the aircraft that the airline will use on its new services which will begin 3 May 2018, with JFK being flown four times weekly and O’Hare twice-weekly. “We are absolutely euphoric to announce LOT Polish Airline’s latest development at Budapest, uniting us with not just one destination in the US, but with two,” enthused Jost Lammers CEO Budapest Airport. “For a fast-growing market like Budapest, this is an extremely significant expansion for us and one which LOT, Budapest Airport, the Hungarian and Polish governments, as well as the Hungarian Tourism Agency have worked in close cooperation to put into place. Worldwide connectivity is crucial in today’s global economy and these vital links will boost the demand for travel and ultimately maximise the competitiveness of the Hungarian market,” he added.
Largest unserved market in Europe from New York
Indeed, it has taken a major effort from the team at Budapest Airport to get these new flights to happen. The return of the US services comes after American Airlines and Delta Air Lines left the Hungarian market in 2011. However, with a market potential of close to 150,000 passengers between Budapest and New York last year, making the Central Eastern European airport New York’s largest unserved market in Europe and fourth largest unserved destination in the world from the US city until now, the airport is positive that this route will prove to be a success. “Budapest Airport is enormously proud to announce these new US destinations and I have no doubt these services will be extremely popular,” Lammers explained. “Our market surveys clearly show that direct flights between these two major cities on the East Coast and the Mid-West of the US and Budapest are in high demand and will be a huge success in all segments of travellers. Aviation connectivity with the 787-8 will also boost the economy through the use of belly cargo capacity of these modern jets.”
The US will become the Hungarian capital city’s 47th country market, with the Polish flag carrier offering a total of 3,024 two-way weekly seats, meaning that the North American nation will become the second largest country market outside of Europe served from Budapest in 2018. Rafal Milczarski CEO of LOT highlighted that in the catchment area of Budapest – in the market of long-haul flights: the area within a two-hour drive of the airport – there are no less than eight million residents, and therefore the direct flights to the US will satisfy a major market demand, including Eastern Austria, Slovakia, the Transylvanian parts of Romania, and several countries in the Balkans. Milczarski said: “More than 165,000 passengers travel between Budapest and New York and Chicago every year. Today, they change mainly in Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam and London, which makes their journey considerably longer. We believe that the inhabitants of Budapest and the neighbouring areas should be offered a better product and thus we have decided to introduce direct flights between Hungary and the US. Our strategy assumes taking up every business opportunity and we cannot waste such potential.”
Investing in “cutting-edge technology and great quality services”
During his presentation, Jost Lammers, CEO of Budapest Airport, outlined the airport’s development plan bud2020, following a €160 million investment over the next three years to allow for further growth.
Not only was 7 July a day to celebrate the announcement of LOT’s arrival, but it also allowed Budapest to show why services like this are reasons for it to make considerable adjustments to its infrastructure. In 2016 Budapest welcomed more than 11.4 million passengers, flying on the services to 111 destinations across 38 countries. This year the facility has witnessed its best-ever start to a year, resulting in the Hungarian gateway breaking the monthly one million passenger mark in April, a month earlier than it did last year. Moreover, with Hungary welcoming over 16 million visitors for the first time in its tourism history, the airport is investing €160 million into its infrastructure over the next three years to ensure it can meet the requirements of its future growth and continuous route network expansion. During his presentation at the LOT announcement, Lammers outlined the airport’s vision to provide “cutting-edge technology and great quality services”. The airport’s development plan – bud:2020 – includes the construction of a 145-room airport hotel opening later this year, a new pier in the non-Schengen area due to be completed by S18, check-in extensions opening this summer, and several new facilities for cargo integrators and handlers. Looking ahead, as one of Europe’s fastest growing major airports, early forecasts show that Budapest will welcome more than 12 million passengers in 2017, breaking yet another record.
Welcoming LOT Polish Airlines long-haul
The moment everybody was looking forward to with great anticipation. The paparazzi were in position to snap shots of 787-8 in all its glory as it arrived in Budapest from Warsaw Chopin for the announcement. The carrier will launch flights from the Hungarian gateway to New York JFK and Chicago O’Hare in May 2018. The service to JFK will run four times weekly, while the Chicago sector will be operated twice-weekly.
Of course, a traditional water arch marked the start of a new era for Hungarian aviation. From now on, the aircraft will be based in Budapest, awaiting the launch of the direct service from Budapest to New York and Chicago in May 2018. On such a hot summer day as 7 July was in Budapest, anna.aero’s Marta Dimitrova wished she too could go through the water arch to cool down.
Among the passengers who arrived on the aircraft from Warsaw Chopin to mark the landmark deal to bring LOT-operated US services to Budapest next summer were: David Kostelanczik, Charge d’Affaires, US Embassy in Budapest; István Íjgyártó, State Secretary for Culture and Scholarship Diplomacy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Mateusz Morawiecki, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development and Finance of Poland; Péter Szijjártó, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Jerzy Snopek, Ambassador, Polish Embassy in Budapest; Rafal Milczarski, CEO LOT Polish Airlines; and Jost Lammers, CEO, Budapest Airport. Upon arrival, they posed together for a family picture.
Once the aircraft had landed and official photos were taken, the launch ceremony began. Introducing the speakers during the ceremony was Mihály Hardy, Communications Director, Budapest Airport. The press conference began with a joint presentation from Jost Lammers, CEO of Budapest Airport and Rafal Milczarski, CEO of LOT Polish Airlines. Also speaking at the ceremony were: Péter Szijjártó, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Mateusz Morawiecki, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development and Finance of Poland; David Kostelanczik, Charge d’Affaires, US Embassy in Budapest. Commenting on the launch of the new flights to the US, Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, underlined: “It was a competitive disadvantage for Hungary that for several years it did not have a direct aerial link with the United States, while the US is the second biggest foreign investor in Hungary.” He also added that Central Europe has become the engine of growth of the EU.
Posing on stage with the crew that flew in the 787-8 for the announcement, with them soon to be a regular sight at Budapest, were Rafal Milczarski, CEO LOT Polish Airlines, and Jost Lammers, CEO Budapest Airport.
Giving a real taste of New York was one of the best singers in Hungary, Georgina ‘Gigi’ Radic. With her performance of the timeless Frank Sinatra song “New York, New York”, she made the destination even more desirable. While she was singing, the LED wall behind her was displaying brightly impressive animations of New York’s skyline. Ticket sales for the flights which begin in May have already begun through all available channels, including the carrier’s website. It won’t be a surprise if some of the attendees actually purchased tickets to the US straight away as they enjoyed Gigi’s stellar performance so much.
Big thumbs up to the route development team at Budapest Airport, who have worked tirelessly to make this venture possible. Seen posing with LOT’s 787-8 were the airport’s: Máté Ritter, Airline Development Manager; Timea Pálffy, Airline Marketing Manager; Nikolett Huszák, Airline and Property Marketing Manager; Sándor Saly, Senior Airline Development Manager; Marta Dimitrova, Assistant Editor of anna.aero; and Balázs Bogáts, Head of Airline Development, Budapest Airport.
After the photo shoot outside the aircraft was complete, it was time for the Team BUD and anna.aero to go on an expedition inside the elegant 787-8, which from May 2018 will be stationed in Budapest for Chicago and New York flights. The aircraft features comfortable seats, regional cuisine and a wide variety of entertainment on board. LOT’s crew kindly treated anna.aero’s Marta Dimitrova to some raspberry vodka liqueur shots to give her some ‘Polish’ courage before going into the cockpit.
Clearly anna.aero’s Marta Dimitrova was enjoying the mixture of the Hungarian-Polish-American delights. On offer for attendees of the announcement were American-style beef burgers, Buffalo chicken breasts and of course, hot dogs. For those who preferred something sweet, there were chocolate brownies coated in icing in the colours of the US flag. anna.aero would like to thank Budapest Airport for allowing them to attend this historic announcement for the airport, and we wish them the greatest success in its new partnership with LOT.