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ROUTES: Polish flag carrier LOT seeking 'good, reliable' partner

LOT is still on the hunt for a "good, reliable" partner as part of efforts to privatise the Polish flag carrier, chief executive Rafal Milczarski confirmed today.

Speaking at the Routes Europe strategy summit in Krakow, Milczarski said: "We don't need any partner: we need a good partner. An average or weak partner, we don't need."

Asked during the summit whether Turkish Airlines could serve as the partner, Milczarski responded: "I wouldn't rule it out, but there are other candidates for that 'reliable partner' title."

Speaking to Flightglobal later, Milczarski disclosed that while the privatisation process was technically "not happening at the moment", the government was "assessing the opportunities with various partners".

He says these partners vary on a "geographical [basis] and also in terms of the type of investor who would be able to come in", adding that "all of it is being evaluated".

The Polish government has been seeking to sell a stake in the state-owned carrier since 2014 when the European Commission approved a package of state aid for the airline.

Milczarski says that while the process is being handled by the government, the airline is "working on our strategy as to who would be the best fit for us, and we will be passing those views to the ministry of treasury, but ultimately it's the power of the sovereign to decide what they want to do with the shareholding of LOT".

He says his priority is continuing the restructuring of the airline and making it financially "healthy". He reveals that the first quarter of 2016 was "the best first quarter we have had for many, many years", but citing financial reporting restrictions he did not divulge figures.

He says LOT is currently working on expanding an existing commercial partnership arrangement with Turkish, but that this is taking "a significant amount of time to develop". Closer co-operation with Turkish could "extend our network and improve connectivity" and the "implications about Asian and African traffic for our customers would be quite beneficial".

Milczarski says the vast majority of LOT's co-operation is around its Star Alliance partners and that the Polish national carrier is only allowed to co-operate on 5% of its business with "non-alliance" members.

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