Polish carrier LOT to resume flights of Boeing 787s on June 1 as it seeks more state aid

WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s LOT airline said Wednesday its grounded Boeing 787 planes will resume flying on Saturday, four days earlier than planned.

The world’s fleet of 50 Boeing 787s was grounded in January after batteries smouldered on two planes owned by two Japanese airlines. Although it is still trying to identify the root cause for the malfunctioning, Boeing has redesigned the lithium ion batteries in a way that allows the planes to fly again.

LOT spokesman Marek Klucinski said that all three of the carrier’s 787s have had their batteries updated to address the security concerns.

The first flight on Saturday is from Warsaw to New York. The 787s are also scheduled to fly to Chicago and Toronto in the summer. LOT is Europe’s only airline to have the 787. It is due to receive two more by the end of August.

LOT is in financial trouble and hopes the fuel-efficient 787, dubbed “Dreamliner” by Boeing, will boost business. It is seeking more aid from the government and planning layoffs as part of a restructuring plan to be presented to the European Commission on June 20.

The Commission has the power to rule whether aid a company receives from an EU government hurts fair competition. If it does find the aid hinders competition, it can demand concessions from the company.

LOT President Sebastian Mikosz said government funds are needed to help the airline complete the restructuring plan and develop business.

“We are taking every effort to cut the amount sought to a minimum, and we will discuss this with the European Commission,” Mikosz told TVN24.

Mikosz also said LOT is in talks regarding layoffs among its 400 pilots. He declined to say how many could be let go.

Last year, LOT received 400 million zlotys (currently worth $511 million) in government aid that helped it pay old debts. According to Klucinski, the EU Commission has given its conditional consent to that aid.