“Someone lied to us.”  Okęcie's boss reveals the harsh truth about the CPK

Marcin Wojko, money.pl: What was the most important task that Deputy Minister Maciej Lasek gave you when he entrusted you with the reins of PPL?

Andrzej Elkov, President of Polish Airports*: Even when I served on the CPK Supervisory Board, it was known that the CPK construction schedule was unrealistic and that Chopin Airport had to be modernized. This knowledge was available to company employees and in documents. I came to PPL to give Mazovia additional capacity and so that we do not lose the growing air traffic.

We already have experience from 2011 to 2014, when the airport underwent a major expansion along with the replacement of the surface of both runways. Then we increased productivity from 36 to 48 operations per hour.

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See also: Europe has a problem. 'CPK could be a cure'

I'll ask about expansion in a moment, but I'll come back to the first question. You did not deny that Maciej Lasek is not your boss, but the Supervisory Board of the company.

On the CPK Supervisory Board, I reported directly to Mr. Maciej Lasek, and when we learned that the construction schedule for the Central Communications Port would be postponed, we knew that the consequences would be strongly felt at Chopin Airport. We started looking for solutions that would enable us to deal with the growing air traffic

Some say you came colloquially to “plow” Chopin Airport, i.e. prepare it for closure when the CPK opens. Others say the Kurdistan Communist Party's “Harith”, because that is what the expansion of Chopin Airport is supposed to serve.

Well, it's probably now clear to everyone that my mission is to fix the failure to expand airport infrastructure. Let us leave it to CPK and your representative to decide what to do next with CPK, while we here at Chopin Airport allow additional time before the new infrastructure is built.

In the context of expansion, how much more can it be “squeezed” out of Chopin Airport?

The expansion should last from 2011 to 2014 that you mentioned, and we planned for that at that time. Since we have an airport that can handle 48 operations per hour, a second expansion had to be done, this time in the final part of the airport. A document was then created displaying several expansion variables. Today we know which one we want to choose.

We will expand the North Pier and allow larger aircraft to park at the terminal. Our airport is coordinated, which means we have no influence on the allocation of spaces. However, we have influence in determining the coordination criteria on the basis of which the availability of slots will be determined in the summer 2025 season, and from this season onwards, we want to make it clear to airlines how capacity the airports close to Warsaw, i.e. Chopin Airport, are. And Modlin and Radom, they will change in stages.

Can this be managed without administrative division of traffic in Mazovia?

We will not use EU regulations that allow this. We want to talk to moving companies. I call what we want to show them the airport capacity matrix. For example, radome, the possibility of its use is fragmented. The airport in Radom is shared between us and the army. On some days it is only available to civilian traffic for three hours a day. Of course we will talk to the military and perhaps we can expand this availability. This is one of the elements of this matrix. If the ban on night operations can be lifted, we would also like to do so.

That's why we have one flight a day from Radom, and not always one?

We want to show carriers that we have this problem. We rather encourage them to take a logical approach in dealing with the question of how to develop here in this difficult transition period – to create new CPK infrastructure, wherever it may be.

However, since the initial target date of 2032 has been set, we will be ready to guarantee capacity until 2035. The increase in Chopin Airport's capacity is a result of changes in the CPK construction schedule, which has been postponed by four years. I stress that this is a bridging solution that will increase the capacity of Chopin Airport until traffic is transferred to the central airport.

Give a margin for three years if something is delayed in the CPK?

Administrative traffic division is a powerful solution against air carriers and a tool rarely used by the European Commission. I also recently changed the PPL narrative. We are not saying that we want to create a new space at Chopin Airport exclusively for LOT, but rather we want to develop the hub function.

But the only carrier interested in a hub in Warsaw is LOT.

Yes, but I am talking about creating a feeder wave for the delivery of transported passengers to Warsaw.

Other airlines can do this on the basis of an inter-airline agreement with LOT (enabling flights with different airlines on the same ticket – editor's note)

Yes. These are the carriers that create this network.

The bosses of Ryanair and Wizz Air also recently said they would like to fly passengers for LOT. But they do not add that it will not be a trip on a single ticket, that is, a transfer.

Yes. I wonder how many will handle this.

How will the expansion phase itself affect the operation of Chopin Airport? Won't he choke while trying to catch his breath?

no. And do you know why? Because we will know the format standards we plan for each season. We have experience with the major expansion of the airport in 2011-2014, when we closed runways, taxiways and parking areas. It was all planned and described. We will do the same now, and we will act with full responsibility. That's why I don't see any danger of “choking”, at least today.

how much does it cost?

More than PLN 2 billion, including a fixed reserve for price changes. Without it it would be PLN 1.6 billion.

PLN 2 billion just before the closure of the airport, when the new infrastructure is built. Will the investment pay off?

Was there an internal audit at PPL after its predecessors?

I did not come here with that intention. Knowledge about the coordinated airport is revealed through its operational parameters. We already know this and we only have confirmation that this bottleneck needs to widen.

What is the glass ceiling for Chopin Airport today and what is the biggest obstacle?

Lounge. Because even though we have expanded the infrastructure of runways, taxiways and aprons to 48 operations per hour, we have remained at the old standards regarding the terminal. This means all places where the passenger “appears”.

That is, security checkpoints, the issue of baggage sorting, and even – as your predecessor said – toilets, the number of which can also constitute a bottleneck during peak hours.

Each of these elements is taken into account and calculated. This announced expansion must anticipate all of these matters. If the automatic passport control gates are turned off, border guards must switch to manual document checking.

The schedule has already been pushed back by four years, but they talked about 2028 until the end, right? I think it was under political control though. I don't want to judge, but logic tells us that someone lied to our society.

If it was up to you, would you build an airport in Barano or not?

Our conversation shows that we don't have a choice and that 2035 will be the year we really start to lose out if new infrastructure isn't built by then.

*Andrzej Elkov – as of 19 March 2024, President of Polish Airports, selected in a competition announced on 1 March. Previously, as of January 17, he was Vice Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Centralny Port Komunikacyjny. Graduate of the Faculty of Transport of Warsaw University of Technology, former military pilot. Former director of Bydgoszcz Airport, he was a member of the supervisory boards of several Polish airports. In the past, he was professionally associated with PPL, including: As Director of the Air Operations Safety Office and Managing Director of Chopin Airport, he was responsible for its expansion in 2011-2014.

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