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LOT Polish may lead new airline for Poland, Czech, Hungary, & Slovakia

Premium Analysis

According to a number of media outlets, the governments of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia are discussing the possibility of creating a single airline to serve Central Europe. The four EU member states are also part of the Visegrád Group, or V4. Together, their population rivals the UK, France and Italy.

Between them, the V4 account for half of all seat capacity in Central European nations. In addition, Central Europe's three biggest airports – Warsaw Chopin, Prague and Budapest – are in the V4. Moreover, the two largest airline groups by intra-Central Europe capacity – LOT and SmartWings Group – are based in the V4 (Hungary's Wizz Air has a much more pan-European network).

Central Europe lacks an airline with a truly global scale and its aviation market is even more fragmented than Europe's as a whole. At a time when demand has collapsed due to the COVID-19 crisis, airlines are struggling for survival.

Consolidation in Central Europe around a V4 airline, possibly led by LOT, certainly has some attractions. But history has tended not to be kind to intergovernmental cross-border conglomerates.

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