ROUTES CIS: Air Onix to Open Donetsk Operation

Negotiations at this year’s Routes CIS forum in Donetsk, Ukraine has enabled the host city’s Sergey Prokofiev International Airport to formalise a deal for a second based carrier and talks to add a third continue, according to company executives.  Speaking at the end of what has been a record Routes CIS event, the airport’s management confirmed that local Ukrainian carrier Air Onix will base an aircraft in Donetsk this year to introduce domestic services to Kiev and Simferopol and international flights to Ekaterinburg, St Petersburg and Tyumen.

“We had definite positive expectations from Routes CIS but these expectations were exceeded,” Oleksiy Dubrevskyy, Chief Commercial Officer, Donetsk Sergey Prokofiev International Airport, told The HUB.  “And we also know that this event will definitely have a long effect.”

Air Onix will initially have just a single aircraft in Donetsk but is expected to introduce further capacity at the Eastern Ukrainian gateway next year after the next stage of its fleet expansion.  It will offer two return flights a day to Kiev Zhuliany from September or October, complementing the existing flights of Ukraine International Airlines and UTair Ukraine on the route. 

“Kiev was already in the portfolio but demand has dramatically escalated while existing carriers lacked capacity,” explained Dubrevskyy.  The St Petersburg route will be opened in the middle of the winter season and the additional Russian links to Ekaterinburg and Tyumen will follow shortly after with the domestic flight to Simferopol scheduled for a summer 2014 launch.

Air Onix is a relatively new entrant to the Ukrainian market.  It commenced scheduled flight operations in April 2012 on the Simferopol – Kiev route and has subsequently added flights to Istanbul, Kiev, Moscow, St Petersburg, Tel Aviv, Tbilisi and Yerevan.  It also provides a link between Kiev and Bratislava, its only current route that doesn’t originate from its Simferopol base.  It currently has a fleet of three Boeing 737 Classic variants with additional aircraft due to follow.

This arrival of Air Onix represents a significant development for the fast-expanding facility and follows just a month after Wizz Air Ukraine revealed it would open a base at the airport later this year to expand its network from Donetsk.  The carrier from October 2013 it will base one new Airbus A320 in Donetsk to boost frequencies on its existing route to Kutaisi in Georgia and introduce a three times weekly link to Bergamo and twice weekly flights to London Luton, Memmingen and Rome Fiumicino.  This will add to Wizz Air’s recently inaugurated flights to the German city of Dortmund.

Dubrevskyy confirmed to The HUB that the airport is hopeful of concluding another deal with an unnamed operator within the next couple of months and which will see additional aircraft based in Donetsk.  “We had good discussions during Routes CIS but it would be a little premature to announce the plans right now,” he said.  It is understood that this deal could see the introduction of direct flights to Paris and a switch of operations to Barcelona from a charter to scheduled basis as well as the introduction of an extensive charter programme.

Further charter capacity could also be made available from Donetsk by Greek start-up carrier Ellin Air, which is being established by Mouzenidis Travel, one of the largest Greek companies working to serve the Russian and Ukrainian leisure markets.  “We have been approached by the carrier for a programme of flights to Heraklion, Rhodes and Thessaloniki,” said Dubrevskyy.  Ellin Air plans to launch flights in August with three Airbus A320s and hopes to grow its fleet in 2014.

Meanwhile, Sergey Prokofiev International Airport will also gain a charter programme to Asia from this October when Hainan Airlines introduces a flight from Haikou, the capital and most populous city in China’s Hainan province.  Elsewhere, Turkmenistan Airlines has made an application for slots to introduce a weekly Boeing 737 service to Ashgabat during the winter schedule and Turkish carrier, Pegasus Airlines will add a fourth weekly frequency on its route to Istanbul.