The UIA became the leading airline company on the domestic aviation market after the bankruptcy of the AeroSvit airline company. The company currently has the largest network of transport routes and the largest fleet of aircraft among Ukrainian carriers. At the same time, the UIA began having issues involving the regularity of flights shortly after becoming the market leader and this has caused dissatisfaction among passengers. What are the reasons for this unpleasant situation?
Growth Pains The disappearance of AeroSvit has led to a certain degree of redistribution of power on the market of air transport. The former market leader’s right to fly on most of the routes has gone to the UIA, causing dissatisfaction among the other carriers. "We are seeing some negative things: the most attractive routes on which only one major Ukrainian airline company operated has gone to another major company. Before the departure of AeroSvit, we had a monopoly of two aviation groups, now we have the monopoly of one," Wizz Air Ukraine’s General Director Akos Bus said in an interview with the Center for Transport Strategies. However, the UIA’s President Yurii Miroshnikov has repeatedly stated that the airline company is interested in becoming the flagship carrier in Ukraine and not a monopoly.
Nevertheless, the volume of passenger transportation on flights operated by the UIA has been increasing at a blistering pace. This figure increased by 60% to 1.8 million passengers at the end of the first half of 2013. According to forecasts by Miroshnikov, the figure will break all records to reach 4.5 million passengers by the end of 2013. "We have almost fully restored the network of routes – with the exception of long-haul flights – that the AeroSvit airline company operated from the Boryspil airport. The volume of transit traffic on UIA flights is up to 60%. On behalf of the airline company, I want to apologize to the passengers that have been experiencing inconveniences associated with the UIA’s poor punctuality indicators in the past two months. Perhaps, one can understand from a professional point of view that a 60% increase is not easy to handle. It requires a tremendous exertion not only by the airline company, but also by all the service providers – the Boryspil airport and the handling companies. Alas, not everyone was ready for such a rapid growth. Alas, we had a lot of delays in delivery of aircraft, which has forced us to cancel flights and postpone the start of flights to certain destinations," said the president of the UIA.
The company's fleet increased from 19 aircraft at the end of 2012 to 35 aircraft by the end of July 2013. The UIA expects to receive two additional new Boeing 737-900 airplanes this year, the first of which is expected in the near future and the second in the autumn of this year. "The fleet renewal program will allow restoration of the UIA’s traditional reliability and punctuality of flights. I hope that our passengers have already begun to feel this with the arrival of the new fleet, and we will completely cure these growing pains in the next few weeks," said Miroshnikov, apologizing to passengers for the inconveniences. However, the expansion of the airline company’s aircraft fleet is more of a reminder of another problem that also affects the regularity of flights...
Infrastructural Constraints The airline company has also outgrown Terminal F of the Boryspil international airport because of the rapid increase in the volume of passenger transportation. However, the UIA is also not in a hurry to move into the large, empty Terminal D at the airport despite the fact that the management of the airport insisted on moving flights to this terminal before April 1 this year. The two sides held tense negotiations and eventually agreed that the UIA would move to the new terminal on May 30.
The increase of the UIA’s passenger traffic to 4.5 million this year will exacerbate infrastructural problems
However, the move was quite painful for both the airline company and the airport. "We have not yet overgrown the terminal D, but it is inconvenient. Our entire maintenance base is located close to the terminal F, five to seven minutes from it. There is no decision on a maintenance base near the terminal D today, unfortunately. This is more of a question to the airport’s management. What we have managed to do is to use a few temporary containers for holding the things that are the most complex and necessary for operational maintenance of aircraft. There are components - wheels, brakes, gas cylinders - that cannot be transported on the ground at a speed of more than 5-7 km/h, and it will take them about 40 minutes to cover the distance from here to the terminal D at such a speed. This is what causes the delays, which would not have existed here," said Miroshnikov. So far, a temporary base located near Terminal D is solving the problem. However, it remains a pressing issue.
For his part, Anton Volov, who was the director general of the Boryspil airport until recently, lamented the complex bureaucratic procedures that did not allow the airport to organize its own tenders for lease of space and to locate fixed eateries and duty-free shops on the territory of the terminal. The lack of dining opportunities significantly has reduced the attractiveness of the airport as a hub.
In addition, a major problem is the apron in front of Terminal D, which is capable of handling only 21 airplanes. However, as already noted, the UIA already has a fleet of about 35 airplanes. Parking airplanes at another place increases the time needed to transfer passengers and luggage by bus to the terminal D. This, in turn, affects the timetable.
In addition, operation of domestic and international flights at the terminals B and D makes connect flights less convenient and requires more time. "Transfer of domestic flights to Terminal D must be one of the components. And there are opportunities for this there - the second floor, where an area for domestic flights can be created relatively quickly. This will not solve the problem of the apron or the parking problem but rather exacerbated them because passengers on domestic flights will go there. I do not know, but I have a bad feeling that there will be problems with the baggage sorting system, which also does not have infinite capacity,” said Miroshnikov.
Volov said shortly before leaving the post of general director of the Boryspil airport that the airport faced a dilemma: to solve the problem temporarily by adapting the second floor of the terminal D for handling domestic flights or to complete the missing areas, leaving the second floor as a technical area. "However, this will solve the problem for only one year and block further development of the terminal, since in this case we will be deprived of a technical floor through which construction materials can be delivered and where work can be performed. However, we will have to finish building it sooner or later because passenger traffic is increasing. We are currently seeing a temporary drop, but there would have been an increase of about 20% in the aviation industry if the largest Ukrainian carrier had not gone bankrupt, “Volov said in an interview with the Center for Transport Strategies.
Therefore, the new head of the airport faces a set of difficult challenges. It is possible that the issue of concession will be discussed actively again following his appointment. After all, the Boryspil airport previously stated that it could no longer borrow funds and that the missing areas in the terminal D could be built only through the involvement of a private investor. Attention to this issue has declined markedly after the departure of Borys Kolesnikov from the post of Minister of Infrastructure. However, it could be back on the agenda, considering the work of Oleksii Kochanov at the Odessa and Simferopol airports.