The Ukrposhta postal company transported its cargoes on the Antonov-124 Ruslan aircraft for the first time on October 31. There were 125,000 parcels on board the aircraft, which was operated in cooperation with the Windrose airline. The national postal operator has announced a regular winter export program and weekly direct flights to the United States.
Yulia Pavlenko, the director of the department of international operations at Ukrposhta JSC, discusses why the Antonov Airlines’ aircraft was needed, the postal items that the company transports to the United States, and the number of airlines cooperating with the company in an interview with the CFTS portal.
Why did the company decide to use the An-124 Ruslan for transporting mail?
We started our charter program with this beautiful decision: a Ukrainian company carrying Ukrainian exports to the world on a Ukrainian airplane. It was an operational necessity. We needed to operate several airplanes simultaneously to reach our shipment volumes because our usual airplane was delayed slightly, so we decided to take the Ruslan airplane and it worked. The Ruslan airplane transported one and a half weeks of shipments. We send about 30 tons of parcels to the United States every week, but our parcels are voluminous. In terms of volumetric weight, that is a total of 60 tons.
The Ruslan example was important to us because we wanted to show that we could handle different volumes of cargo. Currently, we are not considering using the Ruslan aircraft for transporting transport mail permanently. However, we can charter a Ruslan airplane if necessary.
Currently, we are not considering permanently using the Ruslan aircraft for transporting mail.
How full was the An-124 flight?
We made the most of all the usable space, all the 650 cubic meters of space that was declared on the plane. We tried to "pack" the plane as best as possible because when it comes to a charter program, payment is made for the aircraft and not per kilogram of cargo, and the better we do our job in terms of loading the aircraft the more rational the logistics will be. We were assisted by Aerohandling, which is a ground handling service at the Boryspil airport, and the company its job very well. I was personally present during the loading of the aircraft, which lasted 17 hours.
Will Ukrposhta transport something back on this aircraft?
No. The Ruslan performs many international flights. It does not return to Ukraine.
How will the interaction between Ukrposhta and Windrose be organized within the framework of the new cooperation? Will Windrose own the aircraft or will the airline simply charter it?
Comments from Windrose are needed in this case (the CFTS portal contacted the airline for comments but it has not yet received a response), but I can comment on our basic strategy. We requested offers from a huge number of airlines, both domestic and international, when we had a constant need to perform charter flights from Ukraine to destinations around the world, and Windrose's offer was the best.
Will Ukrposhta transport anything from the United States to Ukraine under this project?
It is important to understand how our logistics works within the framework of the Universal Postal Union. Ukraine is responsible for export operations and we only receive imports in Boryspil, at the border in Lviv, and sea containers in Odesa. Regarding imports, we are only responsible for the last mile, i.e. for delivery of consignments from the customs control point to the recipient. The United States has its own national operator, the USPS. The USPS, just like us, uses a charter program that flies to European hubs, and whoever receives these flights in Europe loads the mail onto connecting flights, including flights to Ukraine.
It would be possible to load cargoes onto this aircraft for the return flight if we had a separate project with a private operator in the United States.
Tell us about your plans for cooperation with airlines in the future.
Previously, we sent mail only on passenger flights. Ukrposhta loaded mail onto 30-50 flights to various destinations every day. When the lockdown was imposed, Ukrposhta began using cargo airlines (for example, Turkish Airlines and Eleron) and overland transport to other countries, from which mail was sent by air. Logistics changed significantly during the autumn crisis.
Passengers are happy with the resumption of some flights to other countries, but one must understand that not all airlines are certified to transport mail. We currently have 14 flight contracts, we work directly with airlines, but we do not work with forwarding agents and freight companies. We will add a few more to these 14 airlines in the near future, and the contracts with them are currently at the signing stage.
However, if all passenger flights are grounded again, we will return to transporting cargo exclusively through our existing partners.
We currently have 14 flight contracts… We will add a few more to these 14 airlines in the near future, and the contracts with them are currently at the signing stage.
What do you send from Ukraine to the United States?
In the fashion category: clothing, jewelry, wedding dresses, accessories, and goods for children and pets. Children's goods: toys, toy houses, and various handmade products. Wood: stands for mobile phones and laptops, wooden skittles, and even wooden wallpapers. Many glass items: glasses, stained glass, and mirrors. Various specific products, ranging from accessories for musical instruments to works of art. Furniture, textiles, and household goods. Jewelry. We have even launched a TV series on how to trade on Amazon and Etsy jointly with USAID.
It is important to note that we are actively developing exports. During the crisis, many post offices around the world decided to either stop delivering international mail or significantly raise their tariffs. We have invested more than UAH 100 million in supporting capacities this year almost without changing our tariff policy.