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Just weeks ahead of this year’s Routes CIS forum, the host, Sergey Prokofiev International Airport in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk has formalised an agreement with Wizz Air Ukraine for the affiliate of Central and Eastern European low-cost carrier Wizz Air, to open a single aircraft base at the facility and launch four new international routes. These will add to the existing Wizz Air Ukraine service from Donetsk to Kutaisi in Georgia and the previously announced connection to Dortmund in Germany, which will commence in July.
Wizz Air Ukraine was created to launch domestic operations in Ukraine in July 2008 and currently has its main base at Kiev’s Zhuliany International Airport and from where it serves an expanding network of domestic and international destinations. The carrier confirms that from October 2013 it will base one new Airbus A320 in Donetsk to increase the existing Kutaisi route to five times weekly and introduce a three times weekly link to Bergamo and twice weekly flights to London Luton, Memmingen and Rome Fiumicino.
According to Wizz Air Ukraine, this represents a fleet investment in Donetsk of approximately $80 million (at list price) and will grow passenger traffic at the airport to 275,000 in the first year, supporting over 250 new jobs.
"I am thrilled today to announce our second base in Donetsk,” said Akos Bus, General Director, Wizz Air Ukraine. “Our commitment to the Ukraine is clear: we deliver reliable air traffic operations with very low fares to the consumer. Our passenger growth benefits those airports that offer lower costs and we welcome Donetsk Airport as the second base airport in Wizz Air Ukraine’s network.”
Since it made its debut five years ago Wizz Air Ukraine has stimulated low-cost air travel in Ukraine, boosting traffic levels at Kiev by over 600,000 passengers a year. The carrier expects to carry up to one million passengers from its two bases - Kiev and Donetsk - over the coming 12 months and further network growth is on the cards. “As long as low costs are offered, Wizz Air Ukraine expects to grow further in Kiev and in Donetsk,” said Bus.
A significant investment ahead of the 2012 European Football Championships, which were jointly hosted by Ukraine and Poland, has seen Sergey Prokofiev International emerge as one of the most modern airports across Eastern Europe. Named in April 2011 after the famous composer who was born in Donetsk, the airport is the primary gateway to the Eastern Ukrainian Donbas region and is home to a brand new terminal building and 4,000m runway.
The airport, which is located within 200 km from Russian Federation border, has a catchment area of more than 6.5 million people, including citizens, not only from the Donetsk region but also from the Kharkiv, Zaporozhye and Lugansk regions and part of the Rostov region in the Russian Federation, which is driving traffic growth. In the first three months of 2013 the airport handled 197,071 passengers, up 7 per cent on the same period last year, thanks to growing demand for international services which accounted for 73 per cent of the numbers during the quarter. Over the same three months air traffic movements increased 13 per cent versus 2012.
In the last two months the facility has seen the arrival of two new operators with Wizz Air Ukraine launching its flights to Kutaisi and new carrier Kharkiv Airlines introducing leisure connections to Antalya, Turkey; Heraklion, Greece; Monastir, Tunisia; and Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. According to company executives discussions are ongoing to add more destinations to the Kharkiv Airlines network and attract further operators to Sergey Prokofiev International with the goal of increasing annual passenger numbers above the 1.175 million figure. Hainan Airlines is also due to introduce a new direct connection between Donetsk and Hǎikǒu, the capital and most populous city of Hainan province in the People's Republic of China
According to Kyrylo Osypov, Director General of Sergey Prokofiev International Airport, Routes CIS, which takes place between July 21 and July 23, will play an important role in the airport meeting its growth aspirations. “The expansion of the route network is a key strategic goal for any airport. Routes CIS 2013 is an ideal platform to realise this goal. Besides its major function, the development of the regional air routes, the forum also creates valuable opportunities to attract investments,” he said.