Why LOT Polish Could Be Eying A Base In Prague

LOT Polish airlines may soon create a major hub in Václav Havel Airport Prague, in the Czech Republic. The hub would include long-haul routes and follow LOT’s established practice of developing hubs outside of its home country, like in Budapest.

LOT Polish Airlines
LOT Polish Airlines may soon launch a new hub in Václav Havel Airport Prague. Photo: Getty Images

A new major European aviation player?

The Visegrád Group, a political alliance of the four Central European countries containing Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland, is in the process of discussing the potential launch of a project that could shake up the European aviation industry. The political leaders of these four countries are considering the introduction of a single, strong European airline that would be a leader in Central Europe, Lidove Noviny reports.

The idea of a major aviation player is modeled on the Air France – KLM merger. Air France – KLM derives its strength from a coordinated flight schedule and a major push for transfer passengers to complement the existing point-to-point demand originating from their strongholds of Paris and Amsterdam.

Similarly, the proposed Central European airline would base itself in Prague, Budapest, and Warsaw, but it would also include Bratislava which has the potential to attract passengers that currently use nearby Vienna Airport.

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Why LOT Polish Could Be Eying A Base In Prague
The new European Airline would be highly beneficial to Slovakia and Prague, but also Budapest and Warsaw. Photo: Getty Images

COVID-19 helps the idea gain momentum

The outbreak of COVID-19, and the ongoing travel restrictions the pandemic has caused, made the initiative of a Central European airline come to life again. It was first floated to the public two decades ago, as the countries of Central Europe experienced years of strong economic growth after successfully adopting economic reforms following the breakdown of the Soviet Union.

However, the project was shelved. In fact, Slovakia doesn’t even have a flag carrier at all, while Hungary used to have Malev Hungarian Airlines but only until it collapsed.

Now, after major cuts to routes and frequencies of the European airlines that countries like Slovakia and Hungary rely on for connectivity, the politicians are again keen to establish a single airline to represent their joint national interests. The president of Prague Airport, Vaclav Rehor, said that a single airline operating across these four closely-linked countries would be “stronger, more stable, and less exposed to market problems in a specific country.”

LOT Polish already has extensive experience of operating in different countries, as for example with Nordica. Photo: Getty Images

LOT Polish to base an aircraft in Prague

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Transport Minister Karel Havlick have expressed support for the project of joint support for a single Central European airline. It was confirmed that, should these plans materialize, LOT Polish Airlines would have a major role. The Polish flag carrier would own more than half of the shares in the new airline, and it would establish a base in Prague.

Under the plans being discussed, Prague Airport would become a transfer point for long-distance routes. At the same time, LOT Polish would launch a whole regional network out of the Czech city and, in doing so, actively compete against Wizz Air and Ryanair in the region.

Still, this remains an initiative merely under consideration, which has not been assigned a budget or a timeline. As such, it could just get shelved again. But negotiations with LOT Polish about its expansion in Prague Airport remain ongoing nevertheless, and are looking increasingly likely.

Do you think that plans for a new major European aviation player are likely to materialize?  Let us know what you think of this story in the comments below.