The history of LOT Polish Airlines. Part 7. 2020-2021.

Warszawa 2021-11-30

The history of LOT Polish Airlines. Part 7.

2020-2021.

The next year 2020 started successfully for PLL LOT. On January 25, 2020, it was announced that PLL LOT will take over the largest German holiday airline, Condor. The transaction was to be finalized by the end of April 2020. Thanks to this transaction, PGL (Polska Grupa Lotnicza) was to grow almost twice. There was a chance to return to great charter flights. In total, LOT Polish Airlines and Condor were to carry around 18 million passengers a year. The transaction did not take place because the global aviation market collapsed due to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The cancellation of the transaction was announced on April 13, 2020.

Bombardier DHC-8-400 SP-EQF. 2021 year. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman
Bombardier DHC-8-400 SP-EQF. 2021 year. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman

SARS-CoV-2.

In 2019, a new strain of flu virus appeared in the world that is much more lethal than the common flu virus. The virus was named the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. As a result, at the beginning of 2020, the world community faced the same problems that Europe had in the Middle Ages, i.e. the plagues that ravaged many cities in Europe. Currently (2020), the transport has been put to a great test. Freight transport was slowed down, and numerous sanctions and restrictions were imposed on passenger transport. It had the greatest impact on the global and Polish aviation.

On January 31, 2020, LOT Polish Airlines temporarily suspended flights to Beijing. This meant the suspension of daily connections between Warsaw and the Chinese capital. At the beginning, until February 9, 2020. The "2019-nCoV" coronavirus epidemic has already claimed 213 deaths in China at that time, and around 10,000 people have been infected. The curve of the fatalities and those infected was ascending rapidly. Earlier, British Airways and Finnair, among others, had already decided to resign from flights to / from China. On February 4, 2020, the ban was extended until the end of February, and then for the following weeks.

Another country to which PLL LOT planes from Poland began to arrive less frequently was Italy. Italy was then the largest outbreak of coronavirus outside of Asia. Because of him, six people died there by February 25, 2020.

On March 5, 2020, LOT Polish Airlines suspended flights on the Budapest (LOT Polish Airlines Base) - Seoul route until April 8. The reason was the spread of the coronavirus and less interest in travel because people got scared.

On March 11, 2020, the national carrier limited the number of flights to Tel Aviv. These were activities related to the development of the "SARS-Cov-2" coronavirus in these countries, which translated into a decrease in demand for flights.

On March 12, 2020, US President Donald Trump decided to suspend flights from Europe to the United States for 30 days due to the development of the coronavirus in Europe. The White House decision also applies to Poland, but not to Great Britain. So far, LOT Polish Airlines has offered flights to the USA from Warsaw, Kraków, Rzeszów and Budapest. The national carrier's network of connections included New York (JFK and Newark), Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles. As a result, LOT Polish Airlines has to ground some of its planes and announced that the company may collapse without government help.

The head of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister, Michał Dworczyk, informed that after the decision to limit international air and rail traffic, 12,000 people expressed their interest in returning to Poland as part of the "Home Flight" operation overnight. Therefore, on March 15, 2020, the first 7 aircraft were sent to the countrymen. Two machines flew to the USA, two to Great Britain, and one each to Canada, Portugal and Sri Lanka. The first LOT Polish Airlines plane from London brought 232 Poles. Here's a little explanation. The USA has suspended all scheduled flights. The exceptions were charter cruises for people returning from holidays and specially organized flights. Additionally, LOT Polish Airlines lowered ticket prices as part of the "Lot Do Dom" campaign. Until March 23, 2020, LOT Polish Airlines performed 185 flights as part of the "Flight Home" campaign. On Sunday, April 5, 2020, the last flight of the action was made.

Since China has prepared well for a global pandemic, it has accumulated huge supplies of medical equipment and masks needed to fight the epidemic. Poland launched an air bridge with China and bought medical equipment there, including respirators and masks.

In April 2020, seats were removed from many aircraft, mainly the B.787, and intended for the transport of goods. It was one of the ways to reduce the company's losses.

On April 30, 2020, PLL LOT announced that scheduled flights would be suspended until the end of May 2020. The reason for this decision was the unstable situation on the international aviation markets and numerous restrictions related to travel in the era of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, on May 18, 2020, LOT Polish Airlines announced that it was resuming domestic flights. For starters, on the most important routes. From June 1, 2020, LOT Polish Airlines has resumed about 30 domestic flights a day. Airplanes of the national carrier in the first stage of defrosting the connection network flew between eight airports in Poland. Passengers had to get used to the new sanitary rules in force during cruises.

LOT Polish Airlines launched international connections from July 1, 2020. Tickets for flights could be purchased from June 18, 2020. During the first two weeks of July, LOT Polish Airlines planned to launch connections, mainly to the countries of the Schengen Area and to Poles' favorite summer resorts. Seven weekly flights to: Prague, Dusseldorf, Vilnius and Budapest have been planned, six weekly flights to: Berlin, five weekly flights to: Vienna, Brussels and Kiev, four weekly flights to: Amsterdam and Bucharest, three weekly flights to: Barcelona, Tbilisi and Oslo, and two weekly flights to Split and Dubrovnik. In addition, the carrier announced that at least one connection a week will be operated to: Zadar, Podgorica, Corfu, Chania and Varna.

Also from July, LOT Polish Airlines resumed regular flights overseas. The national carrier's planes returned to New York, Chicago and Toronto. In addition, LOT Polish Airlines has launched 130 connections to European resorts. At the same time, LOT Polish Airlines SA was established, i.e. a new company from the Polish Aviation Group, which submitted an application to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for an air carrier certificate (AOC). There were many questions about the role of the sister company of LOT Polish Airlines in helping the national carrier out of the crisis? At the moment (2021) it is known that these were preparations for the possible bankruptcy of the PLL LOT company. Other countries did the same with their national carriers, and everything was associated with a pandemic. There is no doubt that the coronavirus has severed the wings of the national carrier. Fortunately, the crisis has hit the entire world.

In August 2020, flight bans were lifted from: Algeria, Morocco, Thailand, New Zealand, Belarus, Rwanda, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay and Australia. The list of countries to which you could fly before were: Switzerland, Georgia, Japan, Canada, Albania, South Korea. and Ukraine and member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the European Economic Area (EEA) and the European Union. However, it was still not possible to fly from Poland to five countries. They were: Montenegro, Sweden, Portugal, Luxembourg, North Macedonia.

In September 2020, a flight ban was issued to Spain. Only special flights were organized to bring Polish tourists. In addition, in mid-September 2020, France was subject to a similar flight ban.

At the end of September 2020, another pandemic wave arrived. The ban on flights to Poland from Wednesday, September 30, 2020, applies to 29 countries. France and Spain, as well as Guatemala and Honduras, were removed from the list, but Macedonia, the United Arab Emirates and India appeared on the list. The new ban did not apply to the Member States of the European Union, the European Economic Area, the Schengen Area and Ukraine.

Boeing B.737 MAX.

In October 2020, it was announced that LOT Polish Airlines will receive compensation in the amount of PLN 244.6 million for the grounding of five Boeing B-737 MAX planes. The Polish carrier has signed an agreement with the Boeing concern on this matter. Ten more machines of this type were waiting for delivery to Poland. By the end of 2019, LOT Polish Airlines was to have a total of 15 B.737 MAX aircraft. At the beginning of February 2021, LOT Polish Airlines, in consultation with the Civil Aviation Authority and Boeing, began training B.737 MAX pilots in accordance with EASA guidelines. 90 pilots of the national carrier have obtained the license to fly these planes.

The fall-winter flight connections network at the turn of 2020 and 2021 was significantly reduced compared to previous years. In November 2020, LOT Polish Airlines opened a new domestic route in the Czech Republic. It was the connection between Ostrava and Prague, which was previously operated by the national carrier Czech Airlines for 83 years.

Boeing B.787.

Two more Boeing B.787 planes, which our carrier ordered, were put on the slope in the desert and await a possible pickup or they will be transferred to another company. Airplanes registered as SP-LSH and SP-LSI were flew from Charleston to Victorville in early December 2020.

In December 2020, the Ministry of the Treasury announced that LOT Polish Airlines will receive financial aid to break the difficult period of the pandemic. The planned amount of PLN 2.8 billion.

In December 2020, the UK closed its airports to planes from the European Union. That is why the government sent the B.787 plane to London for compatriots who were willing to return to Poland.

In March and April 2021, many suspended flights were resumed due to the pandemic and the fall / winter period.

Due to the aggressive policies of Lukashenka and Putin, in May 2021, LOT Polish Airlines suspended connections to Minsk and designated alternative routes for flights taking place over the territory of Belarus. On May 23, 2021, Belarusian authorities forced a plane from Greece to Lithuania to land in Minsk. Ryanair's Boeing B.737-800 aircraft, which was registered in Poland. Oppositionist Roman Protasiewicz, who was arrested, was on board. The Belarusian MiG-29 fighter intercepted and forced the plane to land in Minsk. The flight was on the route from Athens to Vilnius. Colonel Putin performed a similar feat. On May 31, 2021, the Russian opposition activist was escorted from the LOT Polish Airlines plane before taking off from the St. Petersburg airport. Andrei Pivovarov, former director of the organization "Open Russia". He was detained by the security service. The Russian flight controller, who ordered the crew of the Polish plane to return to the terminal just before take-off, did not break the law. This was stated by the Civil Aviation Authority.

In September 2021, LOT Polish Airlines opened a new route from Warsaw to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Boeing B.737-800 NG and B.787 Dreamliner planes served it three times a week. The flight to the largest city in the UAE takes 6 hours, and the flights are operated three times a week. For many years, Emirates has operated direct connections between Warsaw and Dubai.

From August 15, 2021, LOT Polish Airlines planes bypass Afghanistan's airspace. The country was occupied by the Taliban after the US troops withdrew.

From September 2021, the US has allowed re-flights from Warsaw to Miami. This was the result of the US administration's decision to lift the entry ban for people arriving from the Schengen Area countries, including Poland. From November, all they needed was a COVID-19 vaccination certificate and a negative coronavirus test.

Written by Karol Placha Hetman