Lodz city authorities decide to sell airport

Grzegorz Michałowski/PAP

Authorities in the city of Lodz have put the town’s airport up for sale, saying “residents do not deserve to pay tens of millions of zloty a year” into the struggling facility.

Adam Pustelnik, the vice mayor of Lodz, said the airport's management had done a great deal to maintain existing connections and develop new routes, but had been unsuccessful.

"Therefore, during work on a new city strategy, we decided on a completely new direction - selling the airport," he said at a press conference on Thursday. "Of course in this case it means the sale of some of the shares because we are not 100-percent owners."

Like many of its peers Lodz’s Wladyslaw Reymont Airport has been hit hard by the disruption to global travel caused by the pandemic. Lodz City Council has also seen tax revenues crash owing to the pandemic, and therefore is struggling to keep the airport afloat.

The decision to sell comes with risks, Pustelnik said, but it is a necessary move.

"There is a huge risk of failure but Lodz residents do not deserve to pay tens of millions of zloty a year," the Dziennik Lodzki local website quoted Pustelnik as saying. "We will seek investors with all possible resources. It is a pioneering process. Worldwide very few undertakings of this type have been successfully finalised. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not the light of an oncoming train. I will put all my authority and all my contacts at stake."

He added that the city wants the airport to become a gateway to Europe for Asian passengers, and that the facility's connections to a motorway network and rail links had turned it into "a great logistics hub."

Pustelnik highlighted the examples of the eastern Netherlands and Dusseldorf area in Germany as places where cities have thrived thanks to the creation of logistics hubs.

No timescales or cost estimates were given at the press conference, but Lodz owns 95.5 percent of the airport, the share capital of which stands at PLN 354.8 million (EUR 78.11 million).

Robert Kolczynski, director of the city's strategy and development department, explained that Lodz authorities do not want to sell all its shares in the ailing airport.

"We can sell an investor a minority or majority package, while maintaining a golden share that gives us the possibility to block key elements," he said.

However, the city will not rule out selling all of its shares, if an investor wishes to buy them.