Gulf Airlines Battle For Polish Business

Gulf carriers are looking to capitalise on national carrier LOT’s precarious commercial situation, and others regionally



Qatar Airways is raising its four-times weekly flights to Warsaw to daily from February 1 – five days before Emirates starts daily services to the Polish capital.

The Doha carrier said the frequency rise follows stronger than expected passenger demand in its first month – but it will be seen as a commercially pre-emptive strike as it becomes the first Gulf carrier to make a concerted push into the Polish market.

Qatar will seek to funnel Eastern European traffic into Doha and onto its global network, and vice versa.

Emirates will offer more capacity than Qatar Airways, however, operating a three-class A330-200 with 237 seats on each flight, compared with Qatar’s two-class A320s which contain 144 seats.

Price wise there isn’t much to choose between the two, with online return economy fares currently set at AED3,360 for Emirates and QAR3,320 for Qatar.

Beyond the fact that Poland is an untapped market, both Gulf carriers are actively targeting Warsaw as they seek to capitalise on national carrier LOT’s precarious commercial situation, and others regionally.

Business Traveller UK recently reported that the Polish carrier aims to cut staff by 30 per cent and reduce its fleet from 40 to 25 planes to save costs. Just before Christmas last year, the Polish government, which owns 93 per cent of LOT, granted the carrier an emergency loan of $127 million in order to keep operating.

If the EU rules that the loan is a form of illegal state aid distorting competition then LOT would be forced to hand back the money and file for bankruptcy, according to The Wall Street Journal (Europe).

Across the border, Ukrainian carrier Aerosvit has been forced to cancel several domestic and international services, as the airline struggles with debts and bankruptcy proceedings.