Interview with Wizz Air Ukraine: officials are not planning to implement Common Aviation Area agreement

The general director of Wizz Air Ukraine airline company Akos Bus discusses Ukrainian aviation market return to six years ago, new routes and ways of survival in crisis.
Maxim Arslanov 30 July 2014 15:09

What are your forecasts for the Ukrainian aviation market in the nearest future?

It’s difficult to predict, it depends on how quickly the political life goes back into normal in Ukraine, how long the anti-terrorist operation will last and how quickly the demand of Ukrainians for flying will recover.

How did military operations in the East affect the company's activity?

Heavily. We suspended our base in Donetsk as well as seven international flights to Dortmund, Memmingen, Milan, Rome, Budapest, Kutaisi, Larnaca. We also suspended two routes in Kharkov: Kutaisi and Warsaw. And we were forced to withdraw one aircraft in our Zhuliany base.

What passenger traffic for 2014 do you expect taking into account the current situation?

Our capacity will be at the level of 900 thousand seats this year with the load factor at the level of 85% (around 765 thousand passengers in 2014 – CTS).

How did fuel expenses grow after closing the air passage over military operations area? How will it influence the ticket prices?

We have only one route that should turn. It is Kiev-Kutaisi that became 40 minutes longer increasing the total cost of the flight. Therefore it has affected the price slightly.

What actions do you take to overcome the crisis? According to unofficial information some employees are on unpaid leave.

We are waiting for a business recovery so we have sent our surplus (due to our capacity suspension) Ukrainian pilots and cabin crew to our mother company’s bases all over its East European bases (Katowice, Budapest, Bukharest, Gdansk) to get some international experience. We consider our own trained personnel as a very important asset so as soon as we bring back capacity to Ukraine we will call them back to work in Ukraine at Wizz Air Ukraine. We did not make anyone redundant.

Is company planning any job cuts?

As I said , no, we count on our staff on long term.

Does the company have debt to service providers?

No. We pay according to all our contracts.

Recently the company got the right from Russian aviation authorities to operate on Kiev–Moscow route. Are you planning to launch this flight?

It is very recent news in the middle of the season. We are now checking our possibilities regarding the time, frequency, etc.

The State Aviation Service has given Wizz Air Ukraine the permission to operate on Kiev–Budapest route. When will the flights start?

It is also a one day old information, we need to check how we can reorganize Wizz Air Ukraine schedule to operate this route. Actually this route is served by Wizz Air Hungary but of course it’s our interest to do it by our Ukrainian aircraft and Ukrainian crew. When we implement it is still an open question.

What will the winter schedule look like taking into account the current situation?

We are selling already the tickets for our winter schedule flights, anyone can check it on our website. No big surprises. We keep most of the routes that we operate in summer.

Could you please comment on the draft of new traffic rights obtaining rules?

For the first look it’s like a time trip to six years ago. Where by all means and by all effort one monopoly’s interest would be secured. We are running an international business, not only in Ukraine but wherever Wizz Air operates. So setting a rule that only those will get international routes permit that would fly domestic or charter means telling clearly that Wizz Air Ukraine will not be granted by any routes in the future as they know well in the Ministry that we will not start domestic routes. We are a single aircraft type business model and the 180 seaters are currently not economical to operate Ukrainian domestic routes. We tried it and it did not work. It also means to me that –no matter what is officially communicated - Ukrainian officials are preparing to accommodate the civil aviation future without signing and implementing the open skies agreement, at least for short term (1-2 years). This is a bad news from the perspective of need for more routes, more competition and lower prices for Ukrainian travelers.