Polish airlines unveil 2008 plans


Poland is considering selling its entire 68% stake in flag carrier LOT, while privately owned Wizz Air is planning a 35% capacity increase for summer 2008. Polish deputy treasury minister Zdzislaw Gawlik told Thomson Financial that an initial public offering of LOT was a ‘foregone conclusion’ and could take place as soon as June or July.‘It’s in the interests of the company, considering its investment needs, for the shares to start trading publicly as quickly as possible,’ he said.Gawlik added that the Government had not ruled out selling part of LOT to another airline.‘When it comes to an initial public offering of LOT it will consist of a new share issue,’ he said. ‘We cannot rule out that a sector investor will take part in a privatisation.’In addition, Warsaw expects to reach agreement later this month with the receiver of Swissair, which still owns 25% of LOT.Gawlik also said he saw no reason for the state to hold any LOT shares, but added that reducing the Government’s stake below 51% would require legal changes.Star Alliance member LOT carried 3.7m passengers in 2006, its most recently published figures, and made a net profit of 539.8m zlotys (?111.8m).Elsewhere, privately owned budget carrier Wizz Air said it would increase its overall summer 2008 capacity by 35% year-on-year.The airline will operate 15 new weekly flights from Budapest, representing a 27% rise in capacity from S07. It will increase frequencies on most of its existing routes, add Gothenburg, Oslo Torp and Venice Treviso, and reintroduce seasonal services to Bulgaria (Bourgas and Varna), Spain (Barcelona Girona and Palma de Mallorca) and Greece (Corfu, Rhodes and Heraklion).From Jun08 Wizz will also base an additional Airbus A320 at its biggest hub, Katowice. The aircraft, its fifth at the airport and 12th in Poland, will be used to increase frequencies and to operate seasonal services to Bourgas, Heraklion and Girona and a new route to Varna.As a result, Katowice will see a 40% increase in capacity increase versus S07.Capacity at Gdansk, meanwhile, will rise by 38% with the additon of extra frequencies to existing destinations and the launch of services to Turku – Wizz’s first Finnish route – and Girona.Wizz also announced a sale-and-leaseback deal with GE Commercial Aviation Services (GECAS) for six new Airbus A320s. The aircraft, which will be delivered in 2009, are included in a purchase contract between the airline and Airbus for up to 107 of the A320 family.Under the terms of the latest deal, which complements two similar arrangements already in place, GECAS will take ownership of the aircraft on delivery from Airbus and lease them back to Wizz for 11 years.