The lost capacity caused by the grounding of its Boeing 737 MAXs is holding back LOT Polish Airlines’ growth plans, the carrier’s CEO said.

The airline transported 8.9 million passengers last year and expects more than 10 million in 2019.

“However, we would have transported more, but regarding the 737 MAX grounding, we were not able to find all the capacity in the market which we needed,” LOT CEO RafaĹ‚ Milczarski told ATW on the sidelines of the recent IATA Wings of Change event in Berlin. “This has been a problem for us. The 737 MAX 8 has had more impact on our growth plans, because this was completely unexpected.”

LOT had five MAX 8s at the time of the worldwide grounding in March and expected to be operating 12 this year.

The carrier has not extended the leases on its current 737 Classics because of fuel-efficiency concerns.

“The CO2 emission reduction by a 737 MAX compared to our 737 Classic is over 30%,” Milczarski said.

Milczarski said he is confident in EASA’s approach to determining the MAX’s airworthiness once Boeing’s fixes are complete.

“EASA is very professional and regulates the market to the highest standards,” he said. “When EASA decides the MAX is safe to fly, then it is truly safe to fly.”

LOT also has several Boeing 787s affected by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine issues.

“Those 787s which are working are flying very reliably. Unfortunately, as other airlines, we are facing more frequent than expected requirements to send engines for shop visits,” Milczarski said.

The carrier is compensating for the missing 787 capacity with ACMI aircraft, especially from Air Belgium.

“We have to wait until Rolls-Royce resolves the technical issues. I believe it is a question of months to get the solution in place. Now it is a much more better-planned problem,” he said.

LOT is also in discussions with Airbus and Boeing as it considers its widebody fleet plans.

“We have growth needs and LOT is reaching the scale with the 787 fleet next year, when we will have 17 Dreamliners in service. I think around 20 [widebody] aircraft is a good number to have an efficient fleet,” Milczarski said.

The airline is considering both the A350-900/1000 and 787-9/10.

“If it proves, for example, the A350 is the right aircraft for us, we have no hesitation in getting involved with it,” he said.

Kurt Hofmann, hofmann.aviation@netway.at