Warsaw-based LOT Polish Airlines plans to launch its first transatlantic services from the Hungarian capital of Budapest to New York JFK and Chicago O’Hare, starting from May 2018.

The Polish flag carrier said the move marks another stage of market consolidation in Central and Eastern Europe, in which LOT is becoming an undisputed leader.

LOT will operate 4X-weekly service from Budapest to New York JFK and twice-weekly service to Chicago. LOT will base one Boeing 787 in Budapest.

LOT believes there is great potential in the Hungarian market; the last time it was possible to fly directly from Hungary to the US was in 2011. Since then, despite the fact that no direct flights have been launched, the number of passengers traveling from Budapest to the US has continued to grow, creating a large but so far untapped market.

LOT CEO Rafal Milczarski said, “More than 165,000 passengers travel between Budapest and New York and Chicago every year. Today, they connect mainly through Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam and London—which makes their journey considerably longer. We believe the inhabitants of Budapest and the neighboring areas should offer a better product and thus we have decided to introduce direct flight connections between Hungary and the US. Our strategy assumes taking up every business opportunity and we cannot waste such potential.”

He said the transatlantic connections from Budapest will supplement the flight offerings from Warsaw; however, they will not be in direct competition.

After the flight connections between Hungary and the US are launched, LOT will operate a total of eight destinations in North America, including seven in the US.

On July 3, LOT launched weekly Krakow and Chicago services.

In June, LOT added its seventh Boeing 787-8 to its fleet—an eighth of the type is scheduled to be delivered in mid-July. Next year, three larger 787-9s will be added to the fleet.

Kurt Hofmann, hofmann.aviation@netway.at