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DESTINATIONS Eastern Europe


Warsaw forging ahead over rivals


Since taking over from Prague’s Václav Havel Airport as the region’s busiest airport back in 2017, Warsaw Chopin Airport has been flying high. Last year it handled 17.8 million passengers, up 13%. Almost 30% were transit passengers, compared to a mere 2% in 2012. To increase capacity, especially of


the transit zone, last year saw operator PPL Polish Airports SE begin a four- year terminal and airside development programme. This is the last planned extension at Warsaw Chopin, however, as PPL plans instead to construct a new state-of-the-art airport in Baranów, 23 miles west of Warsaw. Work on the new Central Polish Airport is slated to last from 2021 to 2027. Initially able to handle 45 million passengers a year, it will scale up to handle 100 million. Meanwhile, PPL plans to redevelop


Radom-Sadków Airport, a former military base south of Warsaw, as a hub for LCC and charters with an annual capacity of at least three million passengers. PPL acquired Radom last summer, with the move casting doubt over the future of its former secondary airport for the capital, Warsaw Modlin. Currently, it’s only served by Ryanair, whose CEO Michael O’Leary has dismissed the new Central Polish Airport as a “big new shiny cathedral in the middle of nowhere”.


At the moment, LCCs cater for


a fifth of traffic at Warsaw Chopin with Wizz Air, the biggest player, flying 2.7 million passengers in 2018. EasyJet added four new routes from the airport last year, while Ryanair ended its programme earlier this year.


more passengers, and Maksym Arslanov, UIA’s deputy communications director, downplays the threat posed by LCCs. “Low-cost carriers are focused on point-


to-point flights while UIA competes with large network carriers that generate transit traffic through their hub airports,” he says. “UIA is a network carrier concentrated


Maksym Arslanov


on transit traffic through our hub at Boryspil International Airport and transit passengers accounted for 53% of UIA’s passengers in 2018.” LOT Polish Airlines expects to pass the 10 million passenger mark this year, having transported 8.9 million passengers in 2018 – twice as many as in 2016. Standout routes for 2019 include the September return of its Warsaw-Delhi India service, while its long-haul growth ambitions will receive a major boost when it moves from ageing Warsaw Chopin Airport to the new Central Polish Airport, slated to open in 2027. Tarom is also fighting back. For 2018,


it reported its first positive earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) since 2015, its 21% year-on-year leap in total revenue helped by its highest total passenger figure in a decade (2.74 million) including a 40% increase in passengers on its domestic network. China and US routes feature in its plans for an enlarged long-haul network. With IATA forecasting Europe’s total passenger market will grow by 2.3% annually from 2017 to 2036 to reach 1.5 billion, future market growth looks assured. Indeed, Eurocontrol’s European Aviation in 2040 – Challenges of Growth report forecasts most eastern European states will double their rate of annual departures per 1,000 capita by 2040, while Ukraine’s will triple from 1.3 yearly departures per 1,000 in 2015 to four in 2040. The absence of LCCs competing on long-haul routes is another positive for legacy carriers. Plus LCCs themselves aren’t immune to challenges, from changing fuel prices and EU passenger compensation claim costs to uncertainty over Britain’s leaving of the EU. Indeed, January saw Wizz Air CEO József Váradi blame Brexit uncertainty while explaining the carrier’s slowed expansion and 87.7% fall in pre-tax profits for the first three quarters of 2018. “Brexit could be a threat to the holiday


In 2018, Warsaw Chopin Airport handled 17.8 million passengers


66 ISSUE 2 ROUTES NEWS 2019 routesonline.com


market if there is a general economic downturn, combined with lower growth in Germany, France and Italy,” says Humphreys. “Similarly, there are already signs that the flow of workers and their families, including, of course, regular visits home, is drying up. This Brexit- related trend has been exacerbated by improved prosperity in the eastern European countries which makes the UK, Germany and other countries less attractive to work in.” 


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