Echo of war

Air traffic between Ukraine and Russia has been sharply reduced

Air traffic between Ukraine and Russia has been sharply reduced
The flights of airlines to the friendly skies and a bright future have been complicated
Photo: Ivan Chernichkin

The military actions in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts had a serious impact on the air traffic between Ukraine and Russia. In January 2015, a total of 580 flights between the two countries are planned, not taking into account Simferopol, which is 2.2 times less than in January 2014, the data of the aviation site showed.

Reasons for the decline

The Russian market has been the largest and most lucrative for the Ukrainian aviation over the latter’s entire years of independence, said Executive Director of the Aerojet company Anatoliy Mazurenko. “However, in 2014 the demand for transport between the two countries dramatically fell,” he complained. There are at least three reasons for the sharp decline in air flights: the destruction of the airport in Donetsk, the ban on flights to Moscow and the decrease in demand.

Prior to the anti-terrorist operation in the eastern part of Ukraine airlines flew freely to Moscow from Donetsk. For example, in January 2014 Aeroflot, UTair Ukraine and Transaero together performed nearly 160 flights. However, since May the airport was shut down and flights were cancelled first and foremost for security reasons and then due to the destruction of the airport.

Since May the State Aviation Service (SAS) banned flights on the Kharkiv-Moscow route and in December flights on the Dnipropetrovsk-Moscow route were banned. In January 2014 86 flights to Russia were conducted from the first airport and 115 from the second airport. If the SAS lifts the ban on flights from Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk, the number of flights from these cities will be increased by 148 in January of next year to satisfy the demands of airlines.

The decrease in demand for air transport is associated with the devaluation of the hryvnia. The Russian mass media, which is conducting active anti-Ukrainian propaganda, also played its role, believes Director of the Friendly Avia consulting company Oleksandr Lanetskiy. “Russian passengers now fear flying to/through Ukrainian territory,” he said.

Expert of the airline industry Volodymyr Katerniy added that due to the aggravation of mutual relations between Russia and Ukraine many business contacts have been severed, which in its turn led to a drop in demand for air travel.

All that is possible

Substituting the lost flights to Russia is a tall task for Ukrainian airlines. Lanetskiy says it is necessary to either open flights to destinations of competitors and attract clients or open totally new routes. “This requires investments, but given the tough economic conditions, market players cannot afford this,” the expert said.

In the majority of cases airlines did not open new flights, but instead focused on optimization of work, Katerniy noted. For example, the size of fleets of aircraft was reduced as did Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), UTair-Ukraine and others.

Incidentally, certain players on the aviation market tried to cover their losses by expanding the map of routes. For example, UIA this year suspended flights to Samara, Nizhnevartovsk, Novorosiysk, Rostov and Yekaterinburg and reduced the frequency of flights to Moscow and Kaliningrad. But, as expert of the aviation market Yevhen Khainatskiy pointed out, the airlines opened flights to Teheran, Tashkent, Stockholm and Dusseldorf and also increased the frequency of flights on certain other routes.

In 2015, UIA is counting on opening flights to Minsk, Riga and other cities. The forecasts of industry experts were split. General Director of Windrose Volodymyr Kamenchuk does not see any prospect for the recovery of demand for flights between Ukraine and Russia.

Mazurenko disagrees with him, presuming that connections between Ukraine and Russian remain: family relations, business and so on. However, growth will only be revived after political settlement of the existing problems.

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