OLT Express, Poland's newest low cost airline has gone bust – leaving frustrated passengers stranded in various airports across the country and abroad. Poor financial management saw the airline grossly spend beyond their means, resulting in an inevitable default. Passengers are entitled to a refund and should call 58 735 5555 to get their money back. As well as the passengers currently affected, commuters to Poland's capital will no doubt be saddened by OLT's collapse. The airline offered swift, practical transport from Wrocław to Warsaw for as little as 99zl.
OLT opened earlier this year with a big advertising offensive and huge selection of domestic routes. Many of the routes proved largely unpopular however, as several were between places where relatively decent transport links are already in place. Why spend the extra money to fly to Poznań when a TLK train can get you there in 2.5 – 3 hours? The same was true of Krakow, which is a 3 hour drive away courtesy of the A4 motorway.
On most of these unusual routes, people simply chose to stick to train or car. This could be no better highlighted by the fact that one flight to Sczecin contained only one paying passenger. OLT also offered free catering on board and allowed checked baggage, all for the basic ticket price. Virtually no low cost airline does this nowadays, so it is little surprise their overheads were so high.
Unlike the aforementioned routes, affordable air travel from Wrocław to Warsaw is a must for both cities. Many people commute to and from the capital every day on business trips, while friends, family and partners may do the same at the weekend. But why are cheap flights needed so badly? What's wrong with road or rail?
The roads to Warsaw are congested and in poor condition, especially on the way to Łódź. Thankfully a new fast road is being built to improve journey times, but you can currently expect a 5.5 hour drive at best. The quickest rail trip takes equally long – there is no fast rail connection through Łódź, so Warsaw bound trains have to go through Katowice before turning north to the capital. The 5.5 hour train journey costs 260zl on the EuroCity train, which more expensive than some of the OLT flights. TLK trains cost about half as much, but take between a gruesome 6.5 – 7 hours. Traveling to Prague or Berlin on all forms of public transport is quicker and (more often than not) cheaper – making Warsaw the 3rd 'closest' capital city from Wrocław.
OLT's competitive prices also caused LOT to spruce up their act and offer equally (or sometimes even more) competitive prices. To judge what people can expect to pay in the coming months, we thought we'd check out LOT's website. We picked an outbound flight for this week, with tickets costing between 227-617zl. Given the short notice, one may understand these high prices, although the return flights next month aren't exactly cheap either (see the image below).
OLT Express isn't the first Polish airline to fall by the way side, and past failures may discourage others from entering the fray and taking on LOT. Nevertheless, the Wrocław-Warsaw route definitely needs some extra competition and there is clearly demand for cheap tickets. One can only hope a new competitor can enter the market and end people's commuting misery, perhaps allowing travelers a bit more time to enjoy these two great cities.