Poland has the sixth largest economy in the EU, a population of 40 million and a GDP that has doubled since 1990. As the country goes from strength to strength, so does its aviation industry.
"The airlines are getting more and more interested in the Polish market as the economy is booming," says Hubert Wojciechowski, director of marketing and public relations at Warsaw Chopin Airport. "There are more and more investments both domestic and foreign, and people feel secure with their jobs. Many airlines are getting interested in opening new connections to Poland."
Warsaw Chopin Airport, which handles 40% of Polish air traffic, has passenger growth of over 20% a year. Kraków's passenger numbers have doubled in eight years and, in 2017, they increased by 10% for the third year running.
Warsaw has recently added Stuttgart, Berlin and Nuremberg to its list of destinations, and Kraków, Nuremberg and Düsseldorf are among the 28 new routes added in 2017. "The growth of connectivity to and from Germany is very interesting, and it's a good opportunity to do it now when Air Berlin has disappeared from the market," says Wojciechowski. Germany is followed by the other major European cities, but the US, Japan and Korea are also important. Warsaw has recently gained routes to Los Angeles and Seoul, and Kraków to Chicago.
Kraków itself has developed into a significant business centre. "The city has moved to first place in Poland as the centre for companies operating in the modern business services sector," says Radoslaw Wloszek, CEO of Kraków Airport. Over 100 foreign companies have opened offices in the city, and the 2016 Tholons Top 100 Outsourcing Destination Report considers Kraków the best business service investment location in Europe and in the top ten worldwide.
Poland boasts a wide range of natural attractions, historic sites and outdoor activities, and inbound tourism is booming. Kraków alone received 12.6 million visitors in 2016. Not surprising, perhaps, as it is the former capital of the Kingdom of Poland, and the surrounding region has no fewer than 14 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Outbound tourism is primarily to Greece, with Spain, Bulgaria, Turkey and Israel as other favourite destinations, and the market is widening. "Leisure passengers will like [newly added] such as Marrakesh, Porto and Tel Aviv," says Wloszek. And from Warsaw "we notice a very dynamic growth in terms of long-haul destinations - to South East Asia, the Caribbean, Africa and also South America," adds Wojciechowski.
Wojciechowski expects the offering from low-cost carriers to shrink significantly in 2018, but points out that, at Warsaw, legacy carriers have been developing their services very dynamically in 2017, increasing frequencies, using bigger aircraft and introducing new services. For the future, the top unserved routes are to the East Coast of the US and the Far East.
LOT flights that are soon to be launched to Singapore could provide great connecting opportunities through Singapore Airlines to other destinations of South East Asia. "At the same time we need more short-haul connections and to increase their frequencies to feed the long-haul network," says Wojciechowski.
At Kraków, Wloszek names New York and Toronto as the best unserved routes but, he says, "we see potential for increasing the offer on routes with a high tourism value and business potential: Chicago, Paris, Zurich, London, Madrid, Brussels and Geneva."
Warsaw and Kraków both have plans for expansion. But perhaps the biggest project for the future is the recently announced government decision to build the Solidarity Central Communication Port at Stanislawow. This is to be the largest airport in Poland. Connected to the rail network by a high-speed link, it will be the best integrated airport of Central Europe, and will offer new possibilities for distribution of cargo arriving from Asia into Central, eastern and south-eastern Europe. Clearly there is a very promising future for air traffic in Poland.