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Ryanair wants to be the biggest low-cost carrier in Poland

Although it is starting with just one modest route from Wroclaw to London this week, Ryanair wants to be the biggest low-cost carrier in Poland in the next three years.

To achieve this, Ryanair would probably have to increase the number of passengers on this route tenfold by 2008, to more than one million travellers. No further routes will be launched in Poland until next spring, although Ryanair is in talks with six Polish regional airports. Warsaw is a no-fly zone, however, because of higher toll demands and additional charges.

"The core of our operation is the 25-minute turnaround. It's not efficient if a $40 (zl.122) million aircraft waits for the buses on the ground," says Caroline Baldwin, the company's sales manager for central Europe. If talks go well, and forecasts for airline traffic remain good for the CEE region, Ryanair might consider placing one of its hubs in Poland, which could translate into rising profits from tourism.

Of the 20,000 tickets booked so far on the Wroclaw route, Baldwin estimates some 70 percent to be inbound passengers to Poland. This could mean an extra 14,000 English tourists for the city over the next few months and at least double that until the year-end, a significant boost for the region's capital.

Market prospects signal growth for the industry as a whole, at least for low-cost airlines. Ryanair is excluding acquisitions from its strategy, but is targeting 120 million passengers and over 100 new planes by 2012 through growth.

Meanwhile, Hungarian Wizzair and Europe's number two, easyJet, aim to change their habits, offering special business-to-business packs. Wizzair is offering free reservation changes and easyJet has aligned itself with Business Travel International, a worldwide tour operator, to provide integrated travel solutions.

(WBJ 21.iii.05)

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