Ryanair Adds Lublin Links to Polish Portfolio

Irish budget carrier Ryanair has revealed it will launch flights from the new Lublin Airport in Poland as it further expands its activities in the country’s expanding air transport market and intensifies its direct competition with rival Wizz Air.  The low-cost carrier has confirmed it will offer three times weekly link to London Stansted from December 18, 2012 and twice weekly flights to Dublin from December 18, 2012, becoming only the second airline to announce services to the facility, currently still under construction.

Previously a military airstrip, Lublin Airport is being developed into a commercial airport with a single runway and terminal with a capacity of 1.1 mppa.  It is due to be completed in October 2012.  Wizz Air revealed earlier this year that it would launch flights to London Luton and Oslo Sandefjord Torp from the airport, located approximately 165km from the capital Warsaw. 

Ryanair and Wizz Air recently went head-to-head at the new Modlin Airport which opened earlier this year.  Both operators see Lublin as a complementary market to Modlin serving a wider regional market than just the Polish capital and will enable them to generate a major share of the expanding and liberalising Polish air market.

Speaking at this week’s announcement Grzegorz Muszynski, Chief Executive Officer, Lublin Airport said it was a “dream come true” to attract Ryanair.  “We believe this is an important step for further co-operation, which will benefit to our region and our citizens, who can now fly to Dublin,” he added.

The arrival of Ryanair at Lublin will more than double capacity from the new airport.  Wizz Air is initially offering twice weekly flights to both London Luton and Oslo Sandefjord Torp and the Irish carrier’s Boeing 737-800s are configured with more seats than the Airbus A320s flown by Wizz Air.  This will be Ryanair’s eleventh destination in Poland and will bring its winter schedule from the country to 54 routes, including new routes to Budapest and Warsaw (Modlin), as well as ski routes to Grenoble, Salzburg and Turin.

Poland is different to many other European countries, not least in terms of what has been happening with air travel.  While Poland had been putting in place measures to open the economy for some time, it was EU accession in May 2004 which was the catalyst for a huge increase is air travel to and from Poland.  Freedom of movement for goods, labour, capital and services all had implications for scheduled and charter air services.

By 2010 the number of passengers passing through Polish airports was 20.6 million, up from 10 million just five years earlier.  And this was despite Poland also suffering its share of economic doldrums in 2009.  EU accession gave the Polish economy a vital stimulus which has remained in place to this day.

Growth in real GDP in Poland has been a consistent three percentage points above the average for the 27 EU countries over the past eight years.  With air traffic demand widely accepted as linked to economic growth, it has hardly been surprising that Poland has seen traffic growth well above European averages

The Polish CAA is predicting the number of passengers passing through Polish airports will continue growing at an average rate of 6.4 per cent per annum for the next ten years, and at 4.4 per cent per annum thereafter until 2030. By then the Polish market is expected to have reached around 75 million passengers.

Although Lublin serves a different catchment to the recently opened Warsaw Modlin Airport and many aspects of its approach are similar.  The airport will serve a city of 350,000 to 400,000 which includes 100,000-strong student population, and more than 2 million people live within an hours’ drive of the airport.  However, in stark contrast to Modlin, Lublin has no near competitors and the chance to be able to use a regional airport will be a significant benefit for many residents.  Its proximity to the Ukrainian border also means that the catchment area can be extended across the border into Ukraine.

As with other Polish airport markets, new services are expected to develop around the migration ‘boom’ markets, as these form a strong and unseasonal platform for traffic development.  With close links to its neighbours, Ukraine and Belarus, Lublin is also likely to see air services develop to the east, offering an alternative to current journey’s taken by road.  The airport will also satisfy the aspiring outbound travel market and seasonal air services to sun destinations to the south are likely emerge.

Lublin already hosts half a million tourists each year, of which 35 per cent are from Israel and a clear niche opportunity will be the development of services to cater for inbound educational tours from Israel.  Route development at Lublin will also target one or more European hub airports to ensure optimum connectivity to the rest of the world from Lublin.

Respected aviation consultancy Airport, Strategy and Marketing (ASM) has been working with Lublin Airport for the past four years and has been actively involved in developing firstly the business plan for the airport and more centrally, the air service development strategy.

Speaking exclusively to The HUB this week, Mark Clarkson, Vice President Consultant Services, ASM said: “It is great to see the airport vision being realised and the announcement of Ryanair services only serves to demonstrate the potential the airport has to grow and deliver passengers to and from the Lubelskie region.  Having worked directly on the airport pricing policy and airline strategy, ASM is proud to be associated with Lublin and we look forward to further success for the airport in the coming years.”