The right to operate air routes will be distributed based on new rules from the end of May. The new rules stipulate that an airline should pay all the fees stipulated in the Air Code before it can be assigned new routes. This may hit Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), which had accumulated debts totaling UAH 147.174 million to the State Aviation Service (according to information from the State Aviation Service) as of May 1 this year, the UBR publication reports.

The Air Code stipulates that the Cabinet of Ministers is responsible for regulation of all issues related to payment of fees, said Serhii Dziubenko, a lawyer with the ECOVIS Bondar & Bondar law firm (this law firm represents the interests of UIA). As of today, there are many legislative gaps in issues involving payment of government fees.

"The government act that has been in effect since 1993 does not regulate the procedure for payment of government fees and it does not set the size of some of fees and the periodicity and time of their payment. For example, the State Aviation Service levies fees for every passenger departing from a Ukrainian airport in an amount that was set for a completely different kind of fees. In addition, it is not stipulated that the State Aviation Service has the right to charge fees and issue invoices for them," said Dziubenko.

However, he drew attention to the fact that the State Aviation Service is well aware of all the gaps in legislative regulation, but instead of eliminating them, it forces carriers to choose between paying and not securing the right to operate an air route. "In essence, the air carriers that do not agree with charges levied face a choice: pay an amount that is levied unjustifiably or give up the possibility of obtaining the right to operate air routes," said Dziubenko.

Lawyers representing the interests of other airlines also recognize that the legislation is imperfect. "Of course, changes to the procedure for government fees are necessary in order to avoid contradictions in the law. As far as I understand, they are currently being prepared," said Andrii Huk, a partner at AF Ante. He stressed that most airlines pay the fees because they realize that revenues from the fees are used to finance a number of measures in the aviation industry, including ensuring the safety of their passengers. 

The lawyer suggested that a lawsuit against the new version of the rules might be filed by the end of May, when the State Aviation Service’s committee that assigns the rights to operate air routes is expected to hold its next meeting.