Last week, the Ukrainian Subsidiary of Hungarian low-cost airline, Wizz Air, announced that as of April 20, 2015, its subsidiary Wizz Air – Ukraine will cease operations. The airline, which was based out of Kyiv and flew between Ukrainian cities, as well as from Ukraine to other European cities, was under extreme economic pressure after the devaluation of the hryvnia, and due to the Russian invasion in Eastern Ukraine.
As part of the restructuring, Wizz Air – Hungary plans to open a base in Kyiv with 1 A320 aircraft in June 2015. This base would operate a reduced flying schedule to points in Ukraine and abroad. Of the current 16 routes, Wizz Air plans to retain eight routes, operated by Wizz Air Hungary.The Hungarian operator’s base in Kyiv would mean that the Ukrainian market would continue to have access to competitive fares on key routes.
After the announcement, the Ukrainian government scrambled to persuade Wizz Air to remain and increase its operations in Ukraine. According to Interfax-Ukraine (via pravda.com.ua), on April 10, 2015 Ukraine’s deputy Minister of Infrastructure Volodymyr Shulmeister met with the Wizz Air management and announced after the meeting that Wizz Air will leave its Wizz Air – Ukraine subsidiary intact. The subsidiary will be relaunched once the risks to its operations go down.
The deputy Minister also announced that Ukraine’s State Aviation Service has re-registered Wizz Air’s permits to service routes to Poland, Germany and Cyprus, for Wizz Air – Hungary. Negotiations are being held about Wizz Air – Hungary’s permits for flights from Ukraine to Italy and Spain. Wizz Air is considering flights from Ukraine to Lithuania (Vilnius) and Bulgaria (Sofia).
On April 1, Ukraine launched an “Open Skies” policy in Lviv International Airport. According to this policy, any Ukrainian or foreign airline company can now get a permit to service flights to Lviv, provided that the company has a relevant permit from its country of operation. On April 9, Ukraine’s State Aviation Service announced that it is offering several European low-cost airlines, namely Ryanair, EasyJet, Wizz Air Hungary, Vueling Airlines, Meridiana Fly, Air Berlin, Germanwings and Norwegian Air Shuttle, to operate from Lviv. The Service is asking the Ukrainian Diaspora to support this initiative and show to European airline companies that this route is in demand.
In the last four years, a number of Ukrainian airlines have declared bankruptcy, most recently Kharkiv airlines which shut down last month, preceded by Aerosvit & Donbassaero in 2013. Ukrainian airlines are under extreme pressures to remain competitive amid the ongoing war, and the key remaining players, Ukraine International Airlines and Dniproavia have had to lease out their aircraft and crew to other airlines to help offset reductions in capacity in the Ukrainian market.