LOT Polish To Add Flights Between New York And… Budapest?!

Filed Under: LOT

Now this is interesting (at least to me). Back in 2012 MALEV, the flag carrier of Hungary, went out of business. While Budapest still has service from all kinds of airlines, at the moment they’re left without their own airline. For a long time Budapest didn’t have any transatlantic flights, though as of last month Air Canada Rouge began a 3x weekly seasonal flight between Toronto and Budapest. While better than nothing, I imagine they’d like a year-round link between Hungary and North America.

The Hungarian government has actively been trying to solicit airlines to launch nonstop transatlantic flights out of Budapest, and early last year rumor had it that Emirates wanted to launch a fifth freedom flight between Budapest and the US. Emirates has long been trying to expand their routemap between Europe and the US (as of now they fly from Milan to New York and from Athens to Newark), and in this case the Hungarian government would have welcomed them with open arms. However, it looks like that didn’t pan out.

Now Hungary has found another airline to launch nonstop flights from Budapest to the US, and an announcement is apparently just days away. A discussion on airliners.net links to a story in Magyar Nemzet (a Hungarian newspaper) about this development. Apparently LOT Polish is expected to launch 5x weekly flights between New York and Budapest starting in the first half of 2018. The official announcement is expected to be made in the next couple of days.

Furthermore, there’s discussion of the possibility of LOT Polish eventually adding flights from Budapest to the West Coast (Los Angeles or San Francisco) at some point in the future, though that seems like a bit of a stretch.

What an interesting move:

  • Budapest is becoming increasingly popular with US tourists, though at the same time it’s not exactly a high yield market, or else we’d probably see one of the US carriers already fly there
  • While there’s probably a good amount of origin & destination traffic between New York and Budapest, the opportunities for connecting passengers are somewhat limit; if they fly to Newark they’ll potentially have feed on United, though on the other end there are limited connection opportunities
  • LOT Polish has been expanding very nicely out of Warsaw lately (they recently even added flights to Los Angeles), though they have a fairly small longhaul fleet (consisting of seven 787s, with another five on order), so I’m surprised they’d choose to expand to Budapest rather than continuing to grow their longhaul network out of Warsaw

All of this leads me to believe that there are some significant subsidies involved\\. The economic benefit of having a nonstop year-round transatlantic flight is huge, so it’s understandable that the Hungarian government would be willing to pay for this, or at a minimum, to make some major concessions.

I can’t wait to see the official announcement. Budapest is a great city, so having a nonstop link between New York and Budapest will be convenient for many.

What do you make of LOT Polish’s plans to add nonstop flights between New York and Budapest?

  1. When one consider the number of tourist to prague, then it makes sense that Budapest would be next in line, but getting from Budapest airport to the city is a horrid experience compared to Prague. But all in all, i hope that Budapest gets more flights.
    The next city i hope gets attention is Sofia in Bulgaria.

  2. Would be a typical decision for LOT Polish airlines. Instead of focusing on their huge home market (which is dominated by Ryanair and Wizzair), they would be placing capacity in foreign countries and outside of their Warsaw hub! Besides, the amount of subsidy required to make such a route work would most definitely be illegal under the EU law. So it could be that LOT really believes they can make more money by plugging in capacity into Budapest rather than into their own Warsaw hub, where they would at least have connectivity. This is just insane!

  3. LOT have had overcapacity and for example Norwegain have wetleased Dreamliners from LOT during a period.

  4. Excellent news!!! Just yesterday I was looking at LOT options to fly to BUD, and it was not there.
    @anders: it is going to get better soon, because they will start new shuttle buses between the airport and Deak ter (square), which is in the city centre with a busy metro station. Since Uber is banned in Hungary, your options are either to take a taxi, or bus 93 (I believe) to Kobanya Kispest metro station where you can pick up the metro.

  5. Curious to see Delta’s response. I wonder if their employees will be around at the gate to protest like they did for the Emirates Athens flight. Something tells me LOT Polish being subsidized won’t bother them nearly as much.

  6. In my opinion, there is a political element to this as well. In addition to any subsidies to make the financials work, both Poland and Hungary have similar right-wing governments which are highly euro-skeptic (ironic given the more than 120Billion EUR that the EU has invested in both countries, including among many other things, infrastructure projects such as airports). At the end of the day LOT is still state-owned and the government exert both control and influence on LOT. After the new government came to power in Poland last year, relations with Hungary have become much cozier. I’m sure these good relations provided motivation and goodwill on both sides to ink a deal. Will it be a success? Hard to say–there seems to be a market need though much of the traffic is tourist/diaspora which produce much less margin; LOT despite its longhaul expansion incl Newark, Los Angeles and Seoul seems to have still too much capacity and the 787 can operate at a significantly lower cost. The article does not make clear if the flights will operate into JFK or EWR. EWR would give passengers easy connections to Star Alliance via UAs hub there.

  7. wait but one of the reasons MALEV failed was because the EU fined the airline a giant sum for all the subsidiaries it received

  8. So much Whizz isn’t attractive. Cities need a decent long-haul legacy for businessmen.

    Czech doesnt go to the US but Delta has a nonstop from Prague now. LOT wont be as attractive as a western legacy.

    Personally I don’t care since I don’t live in New York. I’ll have to transfer to BUD anyway. Whether I transfer in the US or Europe doesn’t matter.

  9. Consider that Bratislava, Slovakia does not have transatlantic air connections. Consider that Vienna, Bratislava and northwestern Hungary form the EU’s Centrope Project. Huge upgrades in rail service in Vienna means that a quick high speed train to VIE by those in the region lessens the need for a second major airport for transatlantic service. Already many Hungarians simply use VIE as their air hub. Also, from Budapest the short fights to FRA, WAW, MUC, BRU, AMS, CPH, HEL, FCO, MXP, CDG, LHR, LGW, DUB means that Budapest is not destined to become a major TATL hub player anytime soon. The load factors are simply not there – unless government subsidies pays 50 to 75 percent of the cost.

  10. Back in summer of 2011 flew an AA flight from JFK to BUD in business class on a cheap fare. That was when Malev was still around and AA was probably betting on connecting opportunities to Eastern Europe. From what I remember flight out was quite full and plenty of business people on board. But like some have mentioned, connecting via any major European hub is actually better for people on the west coast.

  11. Budapest is a great city and there really should be direct service from NYC. DL did it years ago and MALEV too. I just hope they do it from JFK as EWR sucks. Well, they both actually suck but EWR sucks more.

    Very nice to have AC but 3x/week via YYZ just doesn’t cut it. We need more.

  12. @Michael You are probably right that there is a political component to this decision. On top of purely “political” factor there are also very close relations between Hungarians and Poles who consider themselves best friends. However, only political opponents or total ignorants can speak on the H or PL governments as “right wing” “Eurosceptics.” They call themselves “Eurorealists.” Meaning, in short: strong “yes” for the EU (yes, they are not UKiP or AfD) but strong “no” to German-designed and dominated integration. The balance of costs and benefits from joining EU involves a few more positions than the “EU investment” and brought to the “Old Europe” much more benefits than to the new entrants.

  13. @Marek. Fully agree with what you said. In Hungary we always knew about the “magyar-lengyel baratsag” (Hungarian-Polish friendship), or my other favorite: “Polak – węgier dwa bratanki i do szabli i do szklanki” . Well, we had a common king a couple of hundred years ago…..
    As for your assessment about the political situation in those countries, again you hit the nail on the head. Believe it or not, I was going to post the same thing, but because of my past experience with some of the vicious intolerant/ignorant commenters, I decided not to. I am glad you did though…..

  14. Wow that will be great for the 100׳s of people traveling to Kerestir from N.Y. and N.J. every week, to the famous Guest House. Having a direct flight will probably double or triple the amount of visiters.
    MR. friedlander will need to expand his hospitality center.

  15. Great idea
    Will help out all Jewish travels to make their trip ez’r to get their old home village bodrogkeresztur to pray by chodyrabbi Reb shayele.
    Mr moshe friedlander need to extent his guest house on 3 sipos koz.

  16. Fantastic piece of news!!!!
    On my last heavenly trip to Kerestir via Budapest I kept on silently wishing that there was a direct flight.
    Mr. Friedlander’s amazing guesthouse welcoming and graciously hosting thousands of people from New York yearly will most definitely benefit from this turn of event!!!
    Congrats M. Y. Friedlander! May this bring you abundance in every possible way!!

  17. Wow can’t wait it too happen!! We fly so many times a year to Budapest, and then we drive 2 hours to bardo-kerestir!! So this will help us !!

  18. Wow really exciting news, was on everyone’s mind to have a direct flight from the NY region.
    This will ease all of us travelers to the Csoda Rabbi in Bodrogkeresztu and will rapidly increase the visitors at Reb Shayeles guest house on 3 sipos koz.
    Keep us informed when the vouge flight will take place.

  19. We are all so happy. I happen to go to Kerestir 3-4 times a year spend a night at Reb Shayles Guest house and come back the next day. It is a 3 day trip with a stop. If I can get a fligh later in the day land in Bud. early in the morning and back the same day. I would make it a monthly visit. M. Y. Friedlander have those great meals waiting. Fresh bread out of the oven, delishes home made dips, fish, soup, beef, Yommy desert etc….. can’t wait.

  20. Excellent news!!! In roughly 8 hours one will be able to be in Budapest to hang out with friends and family over a long weekend. Finally!!! Thank you LOT!

  21. @Marek
    @Daniel B
    @Nick Knight
    Excellent posts !
    The Visegrad countries have common sense. They see the handwriting on the wall in Germany. And now the U.K. also has common sense.
    Years ago, when I visited Czechoslovakia I asked a relative, “Do you have crime here? He just laughed and said “The only crime we have here is from
    foreigners coming into this country.” This is true.
    When immigrants don’t assimilate into the welcoming society but try to build up
    ethnic ghettos—all hell breaks loose.

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