One of the world’s oldest airlines and also the flag carrier of Poland, LOT Polish Airlines which started operations in December 1928, today serve over 131 destinations across Asia, Europe and North America. Michał Grochowski, Cargo and Mail Director, LOT Polish Airlines talks about their budding relations with the Indian market; realising the massive potential of India, the airline is aggressively in talks to establish their presence in the Indian market and to tap into the growing pharma shipments from the country.
How has LOT Cargo evolved its operations since inception? Which are the carrier’s potential destination routes?
Our cargo division is a top important profit generator, much more than market level for passenger airlines. Although, there is no freighter service on regular basis, LOT Cargo deploys freighters on charter basis on seasonal flights. 2019 is posing as a huge challenge to generate profits on large freighters. That is the reason we started to explore opportunities to use small turboprops in our service on relatively short haul connections. At this moment, this is much more convenient to utilise our long hauls, once we reach some crucial destinations where LOT is not operating or either operating by narrow bodies. In effect, we can generate demand for our long haul flights to add an attractive last leg by ATR72 or Saab 340.
From the beginning of our LOT Cargo history, the most effective business is done on transatlantic routes where Chicago takes the top position. Today, we connect Central Eastern Europe with American gateways- John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Miami International Airport (MIA), while also connecting Mexico through LAX or Latin America through MIA. At present, Asia seems to grow more and more important to our cargo division. As we operate successfully from Warsaw Chopin Airport (WAW) which is the main hub for Narita International Airport (NRT), Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK), Singapore Changi Airport (SIN), Incheon International Airport (ICN) and Delhi Airport (DEL), we observe increasing interests of our customers on our flights and see how fascinating business opportunities LOT generates for both Asia and Poland.
Recently, LOT has opened a second hub in Budapest Airport (BUD) Hungary from where it operates to JFK and ICN. This is the beginning but definitely the market has well-received our offer.
Tell us about your freighter services. Any new freighter service started by the airline in the last two years?
Our freighters are not flying on a regular basis. The reason is simple; polish infrastructure is not yet ready to absorb the loading and offloading of regular, bigger freighters and also, because there is an increased security requirement due to European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) instructions. Besides, our main hub WAW is so busy nowadays that additional slot is extremely difficult to manage. Therefore, we decided rather to wait for opening up of the new Central Communication Port which is one of our flagship infrastructure investments in Central Europe.
At the moment, we are working together with our partners from Group Concorde regarding connection with all major cities by trucks and other partner airlines due to interline agreement.
How has Indian market evolved for LOT Polish Airlines till date?
Until now, we have not explored the Indian market due to the fact that we have not been connected by direct flights. However, based on analytics, market potential and general data of development, LOT board is deciding to open connections between Poland and India. Cargo represents strong demand on this route and LOT Cargo with its local partner- Group Concorde, sees great potential. This was realised when we noted great results after the very first flight. LOT Cargo is very happy to give both economies a chance for development. So far, both India and Poland has practicalised freight exchange through gateways- Frankfurt Airport (FRA) or Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS). That is why some of the very important cargo, mostly perishables and pharmaceuticals had no chance for proper transportation. After LOT opened routing to India, we have seen good response from both markets and this is satisfactory.
For the Indian market, what’s your strategy for the coming years?
Our desire is to open more destinations and frequencies. This would depend on bilateral discussions between authorities; we see big potential in connecting with one of the fastest developing markets– India. For cargo, there are always top five cities: New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. We will see if or when it would happen but especially Mumbai looks very attractive right after Delhi for us. At the moment, we are working together with our partners from Group Concorde regarding connection with all major cities by trucks and other partner airlines due to interline agreement. Our main goal is to connect Central Europe with the Indian subcontinent, which would only be possible after, fast and reliable transportation set up and shorter transit time.
Pharma is an important air cargo product. How is LOT Polish Airlines gearing up for tapping the potential of pharma shipments from across its destinations?
This year LOT Cargo had put maximum efforts to gain top competences on pharma supply chain. We are sure that this is in the right direction to know market demands and be prepared for different commodities on markets. At the moment, we are offering passive and active system in the maximum efficient way. Our B787 fleet has unique temperature controlled cargo compartments, good for passive temperature systems. For active temperature, LOT Cargo uses CSafe active containers with maximum performance and reliability to flight with no limitations on number of ULD positions due to hazmat regulations or any other restrictions. Today, even the whole lower deck of our Dreamliner’s could be loaded in active temperature controlled containers. On average, there are 6 PMC positions.
How would LOT Polish Airlines strategise on the exports and imports from India? As an airline, we are very excited of the likelihood to carry goods in and out of the country. Generally, exports from Central Europe are mostly automotive, high value shipments, industry and pharmaceuticals (mostly insulin and antibiotics). From India, we see huge potential in pharmaceuticals in passive systems, fashion, as well as perishables like mango. We also cannot ignore the prospect of having to move electronic products from countries like China to India, and therefore we do look for the possibility to transport products such as mobile devices in the future.