Polish flag carrier reports major fall in passenger numbers

Polish national airline LOT said on Monday that due to the Covid-19 pandemic it would probably carry about 2 million passengers in 2020, a fraction of the number it had expected to handle.

"This year we should have carried about 12 million passengers, but we will probably carry about 2 million people," Krzysztof Moczulski, an airline spokesman ,told the TV Republika station.

The spokesman said that in terms of passenger numbers the airline had gone back a decade. "The reduced number of operations takes us backwards by almost 10 years," said Moczulski. "The question remains open how quickly we will be able to return to the level of passenger numbers from, say, last year.

"We're doing everything to maintain the continuity of employment," he continued. "However, according to what the IATA (International Air Transport Association - PAP) is publishing, worldwide, 46 million jobs are threatened in aviation."

The spokesman said LOT was working on plans with groups from the associations the airline is a member of in IATA, such as the Star Alliance. "Within these working groups we're working out solutions that will enable passenger to return to planes, not only LOT’s but also those of other carriers." he said.

Before mass vaccination programmes can take effect, the key to getting people back in the air, Moczulski said, is rapid pre-flight Covid testing. But he added a solution proposed by the president of Australian airlines, to only allow vaccinated people on board, would not work in Europe.

"Quick pre-flight testing is much more sensible," he said, explaining that when it comes to the epidemiological threat, aviation is the safest means of transport due to HEPA (high efficiency particulate air [filter]) filters cleaning out 99.99 percent of microbes, including viruses, and air in planes being refreshed every 1.5 to two minutes.

The spokesman added that a return to trusting air travel is important. "We're hoping that from the summer season, or from April next year, demand for air travel will gradually but systematically increase," he said.