Geographia Polonica (2008) vol. 81, iss. 2

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The Impact of Low-Cost Airlines on the International Coach Market between Poland and the UK

Jakub Bojczuk

Geographia Polonica (2008) vol. 81, iss. 2, pp. 79-99

Abstract

This article presents results from a research dissertation aiming to discover the extent to which low-costairlines have had an impact on coach travel between Poland and the UK. A considerable amount of attentionhas been paid to the recent growth of passenger traffi c between the two countries, this in largepart refl ecting the withdrawal of UK restrictions on workers from the new Member States following the2004 EU enlargement. The EU enlargement was at the same time accompanied by liberalisation of theairline market in Poland, a process whose immediate effect was the formation of low-cost airlines makingair travel more affordable and attracting many new passengers including Polish jobseekers lookingfor inexpensive and simple ways to travel. The growing demand for travel was also accommodated bythe coach services very popular among Polish travelers even before 2004. However, while coach journeysaccounted for over half of the visits to the UK made by Polish residents in 2003, the proportionin question was already lower by the following year, as a result of the rapidly intensifying competitionwith travel by air. Nevertheless, such is the perceived complexity and discriminatory nature of the airlinebooking system, and such is the extent of the coach network, that a market for the latter means of travelstill exists, and indeed is seen to be popular among Polish passengers. The research presented here hasnevertheless revealed how the growth of airline operations has combined with intense competition onthe coach-travel market to put smaller coach operators at risk and to necessitate – as a key solution ensuringsurvival – an expansion of operations to and from smaller towns in Poland and the UK.

Keywords: EU enlargement, passenger traffi c, low-cost airlines, coach market, Poland, UK

Jakub Bojczuk, SWELTRAC, Civic Centre, 44 York Street, Twickenham, TW1 3BZ, United Kingdom