Starting on October 29, LOT Polish Airlines will no longer fly out of Newark Airport, forcing travelers to go from JFK, where the airline expects greater “traffic potential.” Poles no longer represent the majority of LOT’s passengers flying between Warsaw and New York, as increased numbers of Eastern Europeans, including Russians, Ukrainians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Moldovans and Slovakians also use the airline to travel to their respective countries. Connections likes these, as well as to other cities in North America, were part of LOT’s reasoning for centralizing its operations at JFK, according to a previous Nowy Dziennik article. In the piece translated below, Nowy Dziennik gathered the responses of Polish travel agents and passengers to the news.
Travel agency owners and Poles who fly to Poland from the New York area believe that Polish carrier LOT Polish Airlines has made a tremendous mistake in deciding to cease flights from Newark.
Most of those that Nowy Dziennik talked to said they think that the decision will have negative consequences for the Polish carrier.
Travel agencies which sell plane tickets for multiple airlines should not suffer from the change as they will still earn revenue by selling tickets for flights operated by other carriers.
Passengers [from New Jersey] are the group most likely to feel the negative consequences of the change. They will no longer be able to catch a direct flight from nearby Newark International Airport, and will now have to travel a couple hours to John F. Kennedy Airport for a direct flight.
“It is a pity LOT has made such a decision, as it will surely have an impact on the number of passengers,” said Zbigniew Wegiel, the owner of American Travel Abroad, a large travel agency located in Manhattan, where 25 percent of the sales come from flights originating out of Newark. “Before deciding to withdraw LOT from Newark, the carrier contacted us to find out which New York airport was the most popular among passengers flying to Europe. We advised them against withdrawing from either one, as many people are used to flying from one of them, depending on where they live. Hardly anybody from New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Connecticut wants to spend hours on the road and be stuck in Manhattan traffic in order to get to JFK. They are more likely to switch to a different carrier so that they can still fly out of Newark. We even had a couple of customers from Manhattan who preferred to fly out of Newark because it was more convenient.”
Mariusz Debowski, owner of the Turysta Travel agency in Greenpoint shared Wegiel’s concerns. He predicted that other carriers will benefit from LOT’s decision by taking on the Polish carriers’ passengers.
“When we first opened our agency, we had very few customers who wanted to fly from Newark, but it changed the moment Polish immigrants began migrating from Brooklyn to New Jersey,” Debowski said. “Then when the Polish airline added connections between Newark and two other Polish cities, [Kraków and Rzeszów], the airport in New Jersey became incredibly popular among our clients. I think once LOT ceases direct flights from Newark, those passengers [used to flying from the NJ airport] will go to Lufthansa, Swiss or SAS. LOT is bound to lose out.”
“That’s another of LOT’s mistakes,” says Malgorzata Majcherczyk, owner of Classic Travel, an agency in Wallington, N.J. where 70 percent of tickets sold are for flights from Newark. “It was a mistake to cancel flights to Rzeszów and Kraków. This is another one of those erroneous decisions. Our customers say they will now turn to other carriers.”
Indeed, passengers’ reactions reflected the agents’ fears. Jozef from Clifton said he does not like the idea of having no flights available from Newark, as he has always relied on direct flights to Poland via LOT. Not only was it more convenient than driving all the way to JFK, he also liked the fact he could freely converse in Polish on board the plane. Now he said, he will have to try connecting flights.
“Still,” he said, “I think I will lose less time waiting for a connecting flight than getting to JFK.”