EU and Ukraine finally sign Common Aviation Area Agreement; Wizz Air announces 20 new routes
In 2006, the European Commission received a mandate from the Council to negotiate a ‘Common Aviation Area’ Agreement with Ukraine. The negotiations were concluded in 2013, but due to the dispute between Spain and the UK over the airport of Gibraltar, it was not possible for the EU to sign the agreement earlier. On 12 October 2021 the agreement was finally signed, creating an environment that could result in rapid growth in air travel demand between the EU and Ukraine. Wizz Air responded within days by announcing over 20 new routes between Ukraine and the EU, with new services from Kharkiv, Kiev IEV, Lviv and Odessa.
Huge potential for growth
With a population in excess of 40 million and around 10% larger in area than metropolitan France, Ukraine is a potentially massive market. While France’s top 15 airports welcomed around 182 million passengers in 2019, Ukraine’s airports handled fewer than 25 million. Since June 2017, Ukrainian citizens with biometric passports have been allowed to travel visa-free to European countries within the Schengen Area. However, Ukrainians are still required to obtain a visa to visit the UK.
Looking at annual seat capacity between Western Europe and Ukraine confirms the impact that the easing of travel restrictions had from 2017 onwards. By 2019 seat capacity had doubled in this market compared with just five years earlier. Kiev’s main airport has seen its share of this market decline from around 75% in 2008/09 to just over 60% in 2018 and 2019. Since the pandemic its share has fallen further to just over 50%. Conversely, Lviv, Odessa and Kharkiv have seen their 2021 capacity to Western Europe already return to the same level as in 2019.
Wizz Air set for rapid Ukrainian growth
Analysis of the latest schedule data for this winter reveals that for the week commencing 8 November, Ryanair and Wizz Air are by far the largest carriers for scheduled flights between Ukraine and the EU. Ryanair currently leads with 189 flights with Wizz Air on 143. Then comes LOT Polish Airlines and Ukraine International Airlines with just 47 each.
Wizz Air has responded quickly to the new aviation environment and has announced plans to grow from four airports in the Ukraine. While launch dates can be rather slippery when it comes to Wizz Air services, the following new routes are planned from each airport with the launch dates based on the first bookable flight on the airline’s website as of 26 October 2021. Nearly all routes will be served with two weekly flights.
- From Kharkiv to: Milan MXP (31 October 2021), Pardubice (2 June 2022), Rome FCO (31 October 2021), Thessaloniki (29 March 2022), Venice TSF (29 March 2022);
- From Kiev IEV to: Alicante (2 July 2022), Barcelona (27 March 2022), Basel/Mulhouse (1 August 2022), Bologna (29 March 2022), Brussels CRL (19 December 2021), Catania (27 March 2022), Chania (2 August 2022), Debrecen (19 December 2021), Eindhoven (18 December 2021), Madrid (3 May 2022), Malaga (2 May 2022), Nice (3 May 2022), Palma de Mallorca (1 August 2022), Paris BVA (17 December 2021), Porto (1 July 2022), Stockholm NYO (16 December 2021);
- From Lviv to: Athens (4 June 2022), Barcelona (28 March 2022), Brussels CRL (1 June 2022), Eindhoven (27 March 2022), Madrid (27 March), Nice (1 June 2022), Paris BVA (28 March 2022), Thessaloniki (2 June 2022), Venice TSF (2 June 2022);
- From Odessa to: Athens (2 July 2022), Bologna (29 March 2022), London LTN (27 March 2022), Milan MXP (27 March 2022), Pardubice (2 July 2022)
Ryanair yet to reveal S22 plans for Ukraine
Ryanair’s Ukraine operation is focussed on Kiev KBP airport, the country’s busiest. Out of Ryanair’s 177 weekly flights in November, 101 are from this airport with 42 from Lviv, 22 from Odessa and 12 from Kharkiv. So far, the airline appears to be planning at least eight new routes for the coming winter season, as well as resuming several services that last operated in S20. However, its plans for next summer have yet to be revealed, but it seems likely that the airline will respond to Wizz Air’s clear intention to become the leading carrier between Ukraine and the EU. The new routes announced so far are:
- From Kiev KBP to: Malta (2 November 2021), Riga (15 November 2021), Turin (4 November 2021);
- From Lviv to: Bari (31 October 2021), Manchester (5 November 2021), Palermo (2 November), Pisa (2 November), Riga (18 November 2021);
- From Odessa to: Venice VCE (27 March 2022)
Local newcomers SkyUp Airlines and Bees Airline growing
Ukraine’s own LCC, SkyUp Airlines, has announced all sorts of routes to western Europe during the last couple of years, but for various reasons, many of them failed to materialise. Now, with a fleet of 15 737s and the new ‘open-skies’ arrangement with the EU, the airline may finally be able to operate some of the routes to France, Germany, Italy and Scandinavia which had previously been promoted but had never actually launched. Another local carrier, Bees Airline, which operates a fleet of four 737-800s, is gradually expanding its scheduled route network, including a new route between Odessa and Prague, which launched on 21 October. Another new EU route is set to launch on 23 December between Kiev IEV and Barcelona.
In recent weeks, other airlines have announced plans for new routes to Ukraine. These include Vueling offering flights from Paris ORY to Kiev KBP (2-weekly from 5 December) and Qatar Airways launching service from Doha to Odessa (3-weekly from 9 December).