The slow demise of Ukrainian airline AeroSvit is a ‘route un-development’ story also encompassing its partners Donbassaero and Dniproavia (all owned by the same Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky, who also owned the now defunct Cimber Sterling, Skyways and City Airline).
National carrier Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) has rushed in to rescue passengers and help plug the route gaps: According to anna.aero’s New Route Database, UIA has already set-up 27 new or replacement routes ready to start in 2013. UTair Ukraine also has three new services in the database, in addition to those from UIA. However, Ukrainian consumers fear these solutions mean more of the same, and are looking for something fresh on the airline choice menu.
Enter Wizz Air Ukraine, the shining low-cost knight, and full subsidiary of the main originally Hungarian airline…now based in Geneva (still with us??) As of April, Wizz Air Ukraine will operate to 14 destinations from Kiev’s Zhulyany Airport (a cheap secondary airport not to be confused with Kiev Boryspil), but it has been lobbying the Ukrainian authorities for route licenses on multiple destinations for years. Although the airline is still yet to receive an official “yes” to these demands, Wizz Air bosses see the AeroSvit failure as an opportunity, although they question the Ukrainian government’s transparency. “I don’t want to challenge Ukraine legally, but there is obviously something unfair going on,” says Wizz Air Ukraine’s boss Ákos Bús. “We want to be considered as a fully-fledged Ukrainian carrier, because Wizz Air is ready to invest in the market heavily and what is happening now is a monopoly, which will result in fewer travellers.”
UAE and Russia on route shopping list
A total of 20 new routes from Kiev Zhulyany have been proposed, 19 of which were previously served by AeroSvit, and half to new destinations outside of both Wizz Air and Wizz Air Ukraine’s current portfolio. Unsurprisingly, it is the airline’s plans to fly to Moscow, St. Petersburg and Dubai that are receiving the most interest, as the airline does not currently fly to either Russia or the UAE. If these plans come to fruition, Wizz Air would be following in easyJet’s footsteps by launching low-cost flights to Russia, with the UK airline’s new services from London Gatwick and Manchester starting this March. However, unlike easyJet, which is flying to Moscow Domodedevo, anna.aero believes that Wizz is talking to Moscow’s Vnukovo and Sheremetyevo airports with regards to its establishing its Moscow home.
|Route||AeroSvit WF for S’12||Served by Wizz Air*|
|Dubai (DXB)||5 (S’11)||No|
|Moscow (VKO or SVO)||14 (VKO)||No|
|St. Petersburg (LED)||11||No|
|Stockholm (NYO)||6 (ARN)||Yes|
|Tel Aviv (TLV)||36||Yes|
|Warsaw (WMI)||7 (WAW)||Yes|
|Source: Innovata Sep 12 and Sep 11. * From airline website|
While serving Dubai and Russia have grabbed the headlines, services to cities like Astana, Chisinau (notably not served by AeroSvit in the last two summer seasons), Yerevan, Baku and Minsk would represent entirely new destinations and country markets for Wizz Air. Operations to Istanbul and Batumi would also be new destinations , but not new country markets, as Wizz Air Ukraine will fly to the southern Turkish resort of Antalya from Kiev Zhulyany twice-weekly and Kutaisa (Georgia) five-weekly from this summer.
These new points on the Wizz Air route map will have airports in its current 16-base network licking their respective route development lips – as the low-cost carrier, like most of its peers, will no doubt start looking to ‘join the dots’ by linking the existing bases to its new destinations. Seven of its existing bases (indicated below) currently have no services to any of the 10 new destinations being suggested by Wizz Air, with airports like Warsaw and Prague being the best served (denoted by aircraft icon), having six of the 10 points already covered. With flag carriers operating on many of these routes, some of the airports will be hoping Wizz Air will give them a chance to stimulate sleepy markets with low-cost competition.
|GDN, POZ, KTW, WRO, CLJ, TGM, TSR bases have no services to any new Wizz Air route. Source: Innovata Apr 13.|
Eight aircraft in Kiev
At a recent press conference Wizz Air Ukraine boss Bús suggested that if the carrier’s applications are granted, the airline would increase its fleet to eight aircraft over the next three years. If Wizz Air were to match AeroSvit’s frequencies on the 20 routes and, assuming the aircraft operate the low-cost standard of three flights per day each, the 128 weekly frequencies would indeed require six further based aircraft, in addition to the two which are currently registered to Wizz Air Ukraine and based at Kiev. Aircraft three will arrive in Kiev by end-March, with another scheduled to start flying from Kiev Zhulyany in July, allowing the carrier to carry 1.3m annual passengers.
Wizz Air expects to receive a response from Ukraine’s aviation authorities soon. “We are talking about weeks,” Bús said. However, the airline may still get frustrated by bureaucrats at the other end of the route, having just this week been asked to submit additional information to the Russian Transport Ministry for its planned Budapest-Moscow route. Wizz Air was already granted traffic rights from the Hungarian end last autumn, following last year’s demise of national carrier Malév, but as of now it is still waiting to gain access. Clearly these are frustrating times for a low-cost carrier used to quickly starting up flights across liberalised EU markets. But what is clear is that its plans from Kiev Zhulyany are giving us some clues as to where Wizz Air’s sights are being set for future route growth: East!