Airlines get really active in Eastern Europe

LOT E-170

Interesting things happening in Eastern Europe's airline industry, where a number of airlines seem to have awakened all the sudden and decided to take a somehow more dynamic stance.

airBaltic is becoming the launch airline for the new Bombardier CS300, which the Latvian airline hopes will help it consolidate its position as one of the leading airlines in North-East Europe.

But other ther airlines in the region are also taking positions. Polish flag carrier LOT recently announced a big strategic plan that aims to make of Warsaw a much more important East-West hub. As part of this grwoth plan, some 25 new destinations have been added in the last year, including to East Asia, such as Seoul and Tokyo, while 10 new Boeing 737-800s MAX and 2 Boeing 787 Dremaliners been added to the fleet.

UPDATE: LOT's network development plans will include also the first direct link between Krakow and Chicago, operated by Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Another project where LOT is involved is its new strategic partnership and equity investment in Nordica, the new airline that was created with the support of the Estonian government shortly after the demise of Estonian Air last year.

Nordica, whose launch we duly covered on this site, had been operating as a virtual airline, with Adria, doing the actual flying and using its Slovenian AOC. By partnering with LOT, Nordica gets access to a relatively nearby hub with longer range connections and bigger critical mass.

LOT will not only codeshare with Nordica, but also expects to be able to use Nordica's incipient CRJ fleet to dynamize its own network in the region, for example, by adding frequencies to some short haul destinations.

Being able to use Tallinn as a secondary base adds also extra flexibility to LOT's schedules as it can fit in new rotations on some routes by using the Estonian capital as a pivoting base.

A bit further East, in Belarus, national airline Belavia seems to have waken up from a long period of letargy and has also unveiled ambitious plans to make, also, of its Minsk base, a hub between East and West.

With this aim it has just launched a full rebranding (here some pics of the new livery), of which the World of Tanks Boeing 737 is just the most eye-catching example. It is also in the process of renewing its fleet with new Boeing 737-800s (the old Tupolev Tu-154 fleet is definitively being withdrawn, though!) and launching some new destinations, such as Moscow's new Zhukovsky airport.

It is also a positive sign that it has finally renewed its web and given it a more modern look (we do not know whether this was after reading our comments!)

Add to this the double digit growth the Ukraine International Airlines is experiencing - quite a thing if one considers the political, economic and military issues affecting the country - and its plans to double its fleet in the next five years, and you get the whole picture for this region.