LOT Polish Airlines announced last week that it is to launch nonstop flights from Budapest to both New York and Chicago in May 2018. The two routes will be served by one of the carrier’s three-class Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, which will be based at Budapest Airport. The carrier’s CEO, Rafał Milczarski, noted that the airline will be focusing on the Baltics and the Balkans region, which could see similar expansion in the future. Notably, emphasis will be put on cities in the area which serve as hubs for Star Alliance member airlines with whom LOT can cooperate. Both Zagreb and Ljubljana are home to national carriers which are part of the alliance, while Croatia Airlines and Adria Airways codeshare on LOT’s flights from their respective hubs to Warsaw.
The Croatian Ministry for Tourism is in search for a carrier willing to launch flights between Zagreb and New York. Airlines from both the US and Europe, including leisure carriers, are all under consideration, with the government determined for services to begin next year. On the other hand, Ljubljana Airport has noted that only a foreign carrier could have the potential to introduce services from the Slovenian capital to the United States.
Mr Milczarski said, “We want to be the preferred airline in Central and Eastern Europe. This region suffers from an insufficient number of connections. If in fact, we can be the first choice in the region, it certainly will involve further announcements”. However, Mr Milczarski added that if the Budapest route proves to be loss-making, the carrier will not hesitate to suspend services, noting that it has no plans to build a hub with feeder flights from the Hungarian capital, the “Pasazer” portal reports. LOT emphasised that the move “marks another stage of market consolidation in Central and Eastern Europe, of which LOT is becoming an undisputed leader”. Within the former Yugoslavia, LOT maintains year-round flights to Belgrade, Ljubljana and Zagreb, as well as seasonal services to Split, Zadar, Podgorica and Pula, the latter two being launched earlier this summer.