LOT Polish Airlines has taken delivery of the final aircraft of its batch of eight Boeing 787-8s, as the Polish national carrier eyes the arrival of the larger -9 model next year.

CEO Rafał Milczarski credits the twin-aisle aircraft as being a factor in the airline’s financial turnaround.

The eighth 787-8 will largely be used to increase frequencies on LOT’s Asian routes, notably to Tokyo (from 3X- to 4X-weekly) and Seoul (from 3X- to 5X-weekly). From August 2017, the enlarged fleet will also begin 5X-weekly services from Warsaw to New York Newark, replacing a Boeing 767-300 leased from Portuguese leasing and charter specialist EuroAtlantic Airways.

The final 787-8 will also allow for potential new long-haul services to be launched even before the arrival of a batch of four 787-9s from next year that will be used to inaugurate the recently announced Budapest-New York JFK and Chicago O’Hare routes from May.

The 787-9s will be the largest aircraft LOT has ever owned, with capacity for 294 passengers, including 24 in business class.

LOT’s final two 787-8s were acquired under a financial leasing mechanism. Milczarski said this was more efficient financially than other methods and would allow the airline eventually to own the aircraft, saving “many million dollars over the next few years.”

The CEO said the finance leases had been possible thanks to guarantees from the British foreign credits agency, UK Export Finance, and indicated that LOT was becoming “a player worth cooperating with.”

LOT went through a difficult period in the early part of the decade that saw it receiving a bailout from the Polish government. In November 2012, it became the first European carrier to receive the 787 and Milczarski said the aircraft had made possible the intensive development of its Asian and North American services.

He said the 787 had become highly popular with passengers, while their greatly improved economy over the 767s they replaced had allowed LOT to offer lower fares, further attracting passengers.

On the short-haul front, July also saw the deliveries of four Boeing 737-800NG completed, while in November, LOT will be one of the early operators of the 737 MAX 8.

By 2020, LOT plans to double its passengers, number of flights, and fleet size compared to 2015, becoming the largest carrier in Central and Eastern Europe.

Alan Dron alandron@adepteditorial.com