‘Ris­ing de­mand led to In­cheon-Bu­dapest op­er­a­tion’

LOT con­nects Asia from out­side Poland for first time

The Korea Times - - HOTEL/TOURISM - By Kim Hyun-bin hyun­[email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

LOT Pol­ish Air­lines has launched its In­cheon-Bu­dapest route, which marks the first time for the air­line to con­nect an Asian coun­try to a city out­side of Poland.

“The launch of flights be­tween Seoul and Bu­dapest is yet an­other mile­stone in LOT’s his­tory,” Rafal Mil­czarski, CEO of LOT, said in a press con­fer­ence at the Court­yard by the Mar­riott Seoul Nam­dae­mun, Mon­day.

“Our de­ci­sion to launch non-stop flights be­tween Bu­dapest and Seoul shows how much we be­lieve in Hun­gary as one of the key mar­kets in Cen­tral and East­ern Europe for LOT. For the first time in its 90-year his­tory, LOT is launch­ing a con­nec­tion to Asia from out­side Poland.”

Ac­cord­ing to the air­line, the tourism and busi­ness po­ten­tial be­tween Bu­dapest and Seoul has surged with an­nual pas­sen­ger traf­fic reach­ing 75,000, and the num­ber of pas­sen­gers trav­el­ing an­nu­ally be­tween Cen­tral and East­ern Europe and Seoul ex­ceed­ing 580,000.

The CEO says the dras­tic in­crease in eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Hun­gary and Korea in the last few decades was a key fac­tor when de­cid­ing to launch flights to Bu­dapest.

“The im­por­tance of the eco­nomic and friendly re­la­tion­ship be­tween Hun­gary and the Re­pub­lic of Korea, and be­cause of the fact that it is the 30 year an­niver­sary of diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween the Re­pub­lic of Korea and Hun­gary, it was brought to our at­ten­tion that this flight was re­ally re­quired by the Hun­gar­ian mar­ket,” he said.

“The gov­ern­ment of Hun­gary re­ally wanted to make the con­nec­tion be­tween Korea and the home mar­ket of those in­vest­ments and pro­vide a seam­less con­nec­tion to Hun­gary. This is what we have done.”

De­spite the pos­i­tive out­come of reach­ing a 95 per­cent load fac­tor on its first flight from Bu­dapest to In­cheon last Sun­day, Mil­czarski said he was wor­ried the re­cent ferry dis­as­ter in Bu­dapest in May, which took 25 Korean lives, could have a neg­a­tive im­pact on the de­mand for flights to the Hun­gar­ian cap­i­tal.

“There were con­cerns as there was an ac­ci­dent in Bu­dapest and I was wor­ried how it will im­pact po­ten­tial de­mand. But I’m very happy and glad that de­spite the very tragic event Kore­ans still love Bu­dapest, and the re­la­tion­ship is even stronger and they still love com­ing to cen­tral Europe,” he said.

The car­rier pro­vides three flights a week be­tween the two des­ti­na­tions, de­part­ing In­cheon at 7:35 a.m. on Mon­days, Wed­nes­days and Satur­days, us­ing a Boe­ing 787-Dream­liner.

The air­line has added Korean hos­pi­tal­ity to pro­vide a more com­fort­able at­mos­phere for Korean trav­el­ers.

“We at­tach a great im­por­tance to the con­cept of hos­pi­tal­ity and this is why we have Korean cabin crew. We do have a va­ri­ety of Korean and in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal dishes, we have a se­lec­tion of Korean mu­sic and movies on our in­flight en­ter­tain­ment,” the CEO said.

The Pol­ish Air­line is cur­rently sat­is­fied with the three op­er­a­tions per week but hopes to in­crease to daily flights in the fu­ture as quickly as pos­si­ble. LOT, which cel­e­brates its 90th an­niver­sary this year, has dras­ti­cally ex­panded its pres­ence in re­cent years, from pro­vid­ing 41 routes in 2015 to of­fer­ing 111 routes by the end of this year.

The num­ber of pas­sen­gers recorded 4.3 mil­lion in 2015 but is ex­pected to sur­pass the 10 mil­lion mark this year, be­com­ing the largest air­line in the Cen­tral Euro­pean re­gion, ac­cord­ing to the air­line.

The Pol­ish flag­ship car­rier started op­er­a­tions be­tween Poland and Korea in 2017 with three flights a week, but is now of­fer­ing five flights per week be­tween In­cheon and War­saw.

The gov­ern­ment of Hun­gary re­ally wanted to make the con­nec­tion be­tween Korea and the home mar­ket.

Cour­tesy of LOT Pol­ish Air­lines

Rafal Mil­czarski, CEO of LOT Pol­ish Air­lines, gives a thumb up af­ter a press con­fer­ence at the Court­yard Mar­riot Seoul Nam­dae­mun, Mon­day, to cel­e­brate the air­line’s launch of the In­cheon-Bu­dapest op­er­a­tion.

Cour­tesy of LOT Pol­ish Air­lines

LOT Pol­ish Air­lines Boe­ing 787-9

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