Polish top government ministers back plan to build central hub airport

WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish government ministers have recommended building a new centrally located hub airport that would begin operations in about a decade, Infrastructure Minister Andrzej Adamczyk said on Wednesday.

The airport would be located between Warsaw and the city of Lodz. Experts have said its cost could reach 7 billion euros (6.11 billion pounds) and it would likely lead to the closure of several existing airports in central Poland.

Adamczyk said the Government’s Economic Council, which consists of Deputy Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki as well as Adamczyk and the energy, environment and labour ministers, unanimously backed the plan, complete with road and rail links.

Such backing means it is very likely the plan will be formally approved by the government of Poland, a country of 38 million people, despite criticism from Polish market leader Ryanair RYA.I.

One of the main proponents of building the new air hub has been Polish state airline LOT, which was saved from bankruptcy in 2012 by public aid, having struggled to compete against low-cost airlines such as Ryanair.

Ryanair, which has a roughly 30 percent share, warned against building the new airport.

“They will waste too much money on it and will build a very inefficient airport,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said earlier this year comparing the idea to a similar one pursued by Berlin.

Berlin’s new airport hub, initially due to opened in 2011, has been beset by numerous technical problems. It has not been opened yet and plans to launch it this year were scrapped in January.

The chief executive of LOT, which is a relatively small carrier with fewer than 10 wide-body aircraft, has said Poland needs the airport to become a regional transit hub.

“The construction of a central airport is a must from the point of view of developing the Polish market and economic development,” LOT’s Rafal Milczarski told Reuters last year.

Critics of the plan have said LOT lacks the financial capacity and scale to make the project commercially viable.

Milczarski has said Warsaw’s current Chopin airport should be closed and the land sold to real-estate developers to help finance the new airport.

($1 = 0.9414 euros)

Reporting by Marcin Goettig; Editing by Alison Williams