KYIV – Passengers flying on Ukraine’s 10 airlines jumped by 40 percent during the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year.
Ukrainian airlines carried 4.7 million of the 7.1 million passengers traveling from Ukrainian airports, according to the State Aviation Service of Ukraine
Of these, five airlines carried 95% of the passengers: Ukrainian International Airlines (UIA), Azur Air Ukraine, Windrose, Bravo and Atlasjet Ukraine. While UIA’s traffic jumped 24 percent, bigger increases were registered at low cost carriers carrying vacationers: Azur Air Ukraine increased 47%; Windrose increased 4.3 times; Bravo 4.5 times; and Atlasjet Ukraine doubling.
Although 11 Ukrainian airports offer commercial flights this year, 95 percent of all passengers used Ukraine’s five main airports: Boryspil, Kyiv Zhulyany, Odesa, Lviv, and Kharkiv.
In October, 2015, all air traffic stopped between Ukraine and Russia, once the top destination for Ukraine’s airports.
Since then, Ukrainians have resorted to flying though Belarus or Latvia, or taking trains. During the first half of this year, about 858,600 people took trains between Ukraine and Russia, according to Ukrzaliznytsia, Ukraine’s state railroad.
Ukraine, a nation larger than France, is dotted with 65 airports and airstrips. But cheap domestic travel ended with the Soviet era.
Inside Ukraine, domestic air traffic lags, growing by only 23 percent during the first half of this year. Seven percent of all travelers, or 423,300, flew domestic on flights from Kyiv’s two airports and six Ukrainian cities.
“Internal flight are so expensive because the fuel is very expensive when you are flying internally in Ukraine -- local flights should be exempted from fuel taxes,” , said in an interview. “We need another local company doing local flights.”
“In the next couple of years, airline service is going to be Ukraine’s fastest growing transport segment,” Dovhan said, stating a government priority. In addition to cutting fuel taxes, he said the government has a policy of “developing the regional airports with public private partnerships.”
In a boost to Kharkiv’s airport, the Infrastructure Ministry is pushing a EUR320 million plan to extend Kharkiv’s green metro line halfway to the airport. Next month, the board of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is expected to approve a loan for EUR160 million, a sum that would be matched by a EUR160 million loan from the European Investment Bank.
The money would extend the subway 3.5 km, adding two new stations.
“We hope to sign in October,” Dovhan said. “The plan is to extend to the airport.”
On Boryspil’s loss of Ryanair, Dovhan predicted that “a compromise is doable” between Europe’s largest discount airline and Pavlo Riabikin, director of Ukraine’s busiest airport.
“It is his KPI to bring in the big airlines,” said Dovhan, an international lawyer, referring to the key performance indicator for the new director.
“We see airports as concession projects which are more effective with private management,” continued Dovhan who was senior legal advisor for USAID in Kyiv before joining Ukraine’s government. “We see the corporatization of the airports -- appointing professionals with high salaries, a bonus system -- public joint stock companies.”
Dovhan’s boss, Infrastucture Minister Volodymyr Omelyan predicts a favorable outcome to talks with Ryanair by the end of August. He also advocates developing Antonov’s Gostomel Airport, northwest of Kyiv city, as an alternative for discount airlines, like Ryanair.
Meanwhile, more international flights are in the cards for Ukraine.
Next week, Ernest Airlines, an Italian discount carrier, is to announce direct flights from Lviv to six Italian destinations: Milan, Naples, Parma, Sardinia, Venice and Verona. At present, Lviv only has a seasonal flight to Brescia.
“We have Qatar coming,” Dovhan said, referring to a direct flight from Doha to Kyiv Boryspil that starts on Aug. 28. “We are planning for Emirates and four additional air companies.”
The holdup for Emirates is their demand for a ‘fifth freedom’ flight, in this case, Dubai-Kyiv-Paris.
“They have very big planes,” he said of the Dubai-based airline, the largest in the Middle East.
To unlock more flights to Europe, Ukraine’s government would like to see the signing later this year of the EU-Ukraine Open Skies Agreement. So far, nine of the EU’s 28 nations have open skies with the Ukraine.
Slider photo: Fresh off an international Wizz Air flight on Monday, a young boy is greeted with the news that he is the one millionth traveler to use Kyiv's Zhulyany airport this year. (UNIAN/Alexander Sinitsa)
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Posted Aug. 15,, 2017