Tuesday, 1 January 2013

LOT's second Dreamliner over Jeziorki

Last month, LOT Polish Airlines took delivery of their second Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and we were fortunate enough to catch it flying in a cloudless blue sky on our New Year's walk around Jeziorki. Weather conditions, for the record - most clement; +5C, southerly winds.

The second Dreamliner, registration SP-LRB, is carrying out technical trial flights, while the first one, SP-LRA, is currently flying fare-paying passengers on short-haul flights (Prague, London Heathrow etc). These shake-down flights are intended to get crew and mechanics familiarised with the new machines (the first in Europe) before they start flying to far-off destinations in Asia or North America.

It is a most handsome aircraft, with a shape that's instantly recognisable; subtly more modern that other large twin-jet passenger airliners like the Boeing 767 or Airbus A330. LOT's Dreamliner fleet will augmented by SP-LRC, -LRD and -LRE by mid-March. There are, of course, question marks re: Polish government support for the ailing state-owned airline and whether the EU will accept further state aid (think of Alitalia and Olympic airlines).

Also notable in the skies over Okęcie right now is the vast number of WizzAir and RyanAir flights diverted here from Modlin while the new airport has its runway refurbished (already!) and ILS installed (fog has plagued the airport from late autumn on). The works are due to be completed by the middle of this month, let's wait and see, but until then, Okęcie is busier than ever.

Another newcomer to Okęcie is Qatar Airlines, which launched its Warsaw-Doha service last month (cost of return flight? Around 4,000 zlotys/€1,000). The two capitals are linked by four flights a week. Emirates will start flying into Okęcie next month thus vastly improving air links from Poland to the Middle East.

This time last year:
New Year's coal train

This time five years ago:
Winter train


DC said...

C, D, and E completed final assembly a few weeks ago and are waiting for B-1 flights. Unless there is another stretch of bad weather in Seattle or other aircraft jump the queue, delivery before mid-March seems quite possible.

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DC said...

Seems to be a smart move by LOT to get in the 787 queue as early as they did. Fuel economy is supposed to be something like 20% better than the 767s. There has been some marketing bravado between Boeing and Airbus, so it was interesting to see All Nippon say they are getting better results on their Frankfurt run than promised. This should be a huge advantage for LOT, and with the A350 still quite a ways off, one they can ride for a while.

But then more mundane problems dismay. Why on God's green earth can LOT still not properly construct Star Alliance (*A) or interline pricing? Is it just too much effort to file fares beyond cities with actual LOT service? Is the entire pricing department out to lunch? This should be one of the major advantages to joining an alliance yet management leaves this soil untilled.

Example: NYC-WAW in February, round-trip in economy.
Cheapest: Finnair @ 660 USD
Most *A: about 818 USD
LOT on Orbitz/ebookers: 883 USD
LOT on LOT website: 993

OK, no interline pricing needed here and LOT charges about a 10% premium for the non-stop on the 787 (which many would pay extra for.) Non-stops being slightly more expensive for economy seems to be fairly standard across the industry, so enough people must be willing to pay. No problem with the pricing here. But why pay a 110 USD fee to book via the LOT website? I find this quite unusual, and for reference I've looked at quite a bit of pricing over the years across many airlines.

Now here's where it gets stupid. WAS-KRK, to force either *A or other interline pricing:

Cheapest (tie among several airlines - none include LOT segments): 887 USD
LOT flights on Orbitz/ebookers: 1174 USD
LOT flights on LOT website: 1794 USD

So basically the penalty for booking with the LOT website is about 50%! And why on earth can't LOT's own search engine find the cheapest interline prices? Note that the Orbitz price connects via Chicago, when it would be far more direct to connect at JFK. This cannot be a premium for 787 service since, or it would have been more like 10% as the first example shows.

The problem has been around for years, and maybe LOT thought no one without Polish blood would want to fly them or something? Silly, but I can't imagine why otherwise. With the excitement of new aircraft, this should have been corrected by now. Even worse, management decided to consolidate New York ops at JFK, which has very little *A domestic feed. Lufthansa gets around this by code sharing with JetBlue. Try and buy a ticket from Buffalo to Warsaw? LOT isn't even an option if you book online, unless you are willing to let a 60 minute domestic flight _double_ the price of the entire ticket. Insane.

If they had left some operations at Newark. they'd have tons of *A domestic feed. But if they're not going to bother pricing those connections I suppose it doesn't matter anyway.

Sorry for the long post. I want so badly for LOT to succeed. But maybe before arguing for or against state subsidies, someone should check if LOT has competent staff for such basic pricing functions.

Anonymous said...

How do you assess the impact of the Emirates and Quatar arrival? I'm really excited about possibilities of going south and east via Dubai rather than via Germany. Dubai is also a nice spot for a long winter weekend- cant wait