WORLD ROUTES: Kharkiv Airport Looks For Direct Links to Europe and Asia

In a year that commenced with the closure of the country’s largest carrier, Aerosvit Airlines, the management of Kharkiv Airport in Ukraine are very upbeat.  The arrival of a brand new home-based carrier, the arrival of scheduled flights from Central and Eastern European low-cost carrier Wizz Air and the imminent opening of a new cargo terminal, mean 2013 will be remembered for the right reasons.  And, there is further network growth on the cards, including new direct links to Asia and Europe, markets that are currently heavily served via one-stop flights.

“Unfortunately any bankruptcy of a carrier does have bad consequences,” Vladyslav Ilyin, head of commercial department, Kharkiv International Airport, told The HUB during an interview at this year’s World Routes forum in Las Vegas, USA.  “For us it mainly hit the domestic market where traffic declined by around 20 per cent.  However, it also opened the market for new arrivals and that has benefitted us at Kharkiv Airport with the arrival of Wizz Air Ukraine.

Following the collapse of Aerosvit many of the carrier’s flight designations were transferred to other operators.  According to Ilyin, this allowed Wizz Air Ukraine to invest in introducing a third Airbus A320 into the local market, a decision that directly brought about the new link to Khrakiv from the Georgian city of Kutaisi.  The success of this route, which only commenced in July 2013, has already seen frequencies increase from two to three a week, while a second route to Warsaw was added earlier this month.  “We hope to continue our fruitful cooperation and look forward for a Wizz Air base in Kharkiv in the future,” said Ilyin.

The scheduled, low-cost operations of Wizz Air are complement by the operations of Kharkiv Airlines, a new start-up carrier that is initially providing charter flights to popular leisure destinations but which has ambitious plans to enter the scheduled market with short- and long-haul links into Europe and Asia.  The airline has this summer been offering links from Kharkiv to destinations across Greece, Tunisia and Egypt.  “We are very happy to have a strong partner who is looking forward to develop new leisure destinations,” said Ilyin.

Although traffic figures for the first nine months of 2013 show the void in the domestic market from the collapse of Aerosvit, they also highlight the international growth.  Kharkiv Airport carried 460,200 passengers during the January 2013 – September 2013 period, up from 383,500 last year.  Domestic demand was down 23 per cent compared with the same period in 2012 but international demand was up almost a third from 305,500 in the first nine months of 2012 to 400,300 this year.

As Kharkiv is considered to be one of the industrial centers Ukraine and the wider CIS market, the freight sector is a key part of the airport’s business. It is now finishing the construction of a new cargo facility that will open by the end of November 2013.  This includes a multimodal warehouse, new cargo handling equipment, and special perishable and dangerous goods storage facilities.

It is the passenger market where Kharkiv Airport’s management sees the strongest growth potential and what brings its commercial chief to Las Vegas for World Routes.  “Currently most of Kharkiv Airport’s traffic (over 70 per cent) transferring in other airports goes to Europe, majorly Germany, Italy, the UK, Spain, France, so we are looking for new direct routes to these European countries,” said Ilyin.

Another important market for the airport is Asia.  “We have more and more people interested in traveling to such countries as China, Vietnam, India.  Of course, the connections within CIS countries are strong, so this is our another priority for further development,” Ilyin added.

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