TORONTO — LOT Polish Airlines’ CEO Rafal Milczarski says his airline has “very ambitious plans” for the Canadian market, including more flights out of Toronto this winter and, further down the line, potentially a second Canadian gateway for the Polish airline by 2020.
In November LOT will offer four weekly flights between Toronto and Warsaw, one more than last year. Frequency will go up to five weekly flights and then seven into December and the holiday season. February and March will have boosted schedules too, with five weekly flights in February (one more than last year) and six weekly flights in March (two more than last year).
“Ultimately we want to have daily flights between Toronto and Warsaw,” said Milczarski. “We need more connectivity … and more market share in the North Atlantic market. We want to be the friendliest airline in Central and Eastern Europe.”
LOT currently operates six B787 Dreamliners on long haul routes. The airline is growing fast, said Milczarski. “In 2015 we had 4.3 million passengers and 41 destinations. In 2016 we had 5.5 million passengers and 64 destinations. And in 2017 we project 6.6 million passengers and 69 destinations.”
By 2020 LOT expects to carry 10.5 million passengers to nearly 90 destinations, he added.
“We’ve had 30% growth year-on-year. I think we’re one of the fastest growing airlines in the world,” said Milczarski. “If we do it correctly there’s enormous scope.”
LOT is also one of the oldest airlines in the world, with 87 years of experience. When it started in 1929 it was the third airline in Europe and the sixth in the world. LOT joined IATA in 1930. Fast forward 70 or so years and the airline extended its reach by joining Star Alliance in 2003.
Milczarski said LOT is developing Warsaw as a hub airport known for its short connection times. “The overall journey time via Warsaw is quicker than if you fly through Frankfurt or Munich. It’s the optimum solution for the customer.” Warsaw has a minimum 30-minute connection time, one of the shortest in Europe, he added.
Asked about Air Canada Rouge, which introduced Toronto-Warsaw flights in June, Milczarski said any competition is good for the customer. “Our flights are full. It’s a manageable challenge.”