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Troubled Polish airline LOT gets new CEO

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Troubled Polish airline LOT got a new boss on Wednesday as the European Union checked if Warsaw broke subsidy rules by throwing the flagship carrier a 95 million euro lifeline.

LOT's supervisory board chose Sebastian Mikosz to replace Marcin Pirog as the airline's 13th chief executive in a decade. Mikosz had already held the top job in 2009-10.

The airline is in trouble, and the Polish government earmarked 240 million euros in loans to cover LOTs debts after it posted a 115 million zloty (27.6 million euros, $37 million) loss in 2012.

"Errors in management, crisis in the European air transport sector and a change of CEO almost every year have pushed the company to the brink of bankruptcy," expert Krzysztof Moczulski told AFP.

"LOT is fighting for survival, like many other national air carriers, including the Czech CSA, Spain's Iberia or Italy's Alitalia," he said.

"But it's unlikely the Polish government will let this strategic company go. It will do everything to restructure it," Moczulski added.

Analysts have forecast that air traffic will double in Poland from the 20 million passengers recorded in 2010 to 40 million by 2030. LOT reported carrying five million in 2012.

LOT is also now grappling with problems that affect its latest aircraft, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The airline became the first in Europe to use the Dreamliner when it took delivery of the plane in November.

LOT has ordered a total of eight 787s, but has had to ground the two it now owns in line with a global flight ban by regulators owing to battery malfunctions.

"The company is keeping track of its daily losses over the Dreamliner groundings," LOT spokesman Marek Klucinski told AFP Wednesday, but declined to disclose losses so far.

"It's clear we'll be asking the American maker for compensation," he added.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130206/troubled-polish-airline-lot-gets-new-ceo