That is one of the most interesting PSO routes in Europe. Here you can download PDF with all PSO routes in European Union. You will be able to see that PSO mechanism is mostly used to support small islands to mainland (mainly capitals, used for small islands in Greece, Spain, Portugal) and small distant villages far from big cities where other transport options are not good (for example in Sweden or Finland).
There are not many routes like that, where Lithuania received approval – London City to Vilnius Airport. I find only two other similar examples: Czech Republic is running tender to fly Brno to Munich and also Cyprus provides subsidy for Ryanair to fly from Larnaca to Brussels.
What is even more interesting, it’s debatable if Vilnius to London market is served good enough or not. Wizz Air flies Vilnius to London Luton – schedule varies, but it goes up to 2x daily flights in peak seasons. Ryanair operates from Vilnius to both Stansted (daily) and Luton (5x weekly). There are plenty of one-stop options where you can get from Vilnius to London City or Heathrow or Gatwick with 0,5 to 2 hours stop on the way – Lufthansa in Frankfurt, SAS in Copenhagen or Arlanda, airBaltic in Riga, LOT in Warsaw, Austrian in Vienna, Brussels Airlines in Brussels and some more. Still, governmental institutions of Lithuania demonstrated Vilnius to London City is a top priority and crucial for the development of the country and got EU approval.
I wrote in August in my Lithuanian blog, LOT was almost a single possible winner. There was
What is not public yet, what subsidy will be provided for LOT, but this should become public sooner or later.
Some details we know:
1. 5 years agreement should be signed until end of 2018;
2. LOT will start sales of tickets after signing;
3. Flights should start in May 2019;
4. Route will be flown 2x daily;
5. Subsidy may go up to 3M EUR a year.
And some fun facts:
1. Vilnius will be longest route from London City served all-year round;
2. London City connection is not available from Tallinn Airport, Riga International Airport, Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen Airports A/S, Oslo, Madrid Barajas International Airport or Flughafen Wien – Vienna Airport
3. Vilnius Airport is bigger than London City airport by passenger traffic.
I can already make my educated guess on schedule to be announced:
LOxxxx VNO0745 – 0845LCY E90 x7
LOxxxx LCY0915 – 1400VNO E90 x7
LOxxxx VNO1700 – 1800LCY E90 x6
LOxxxx LCY1830 – 2315VNO E90 x6
Morning rotation may be earlier, but as I checked, there are no available slots in London City airport to depart before 9AM local time. Also, such schedule fits LOT Polish Airlines arrivals from Budapest and Warsaw, so they will be able to switch aircraft for technical reasons if this is required.