UIA to choose between Shanghai, Guangzhou as new destination

UIA remains undecisive as to its future Chinese destination The Ukrainian carrier is planning to introduce Boeing 777s in 2018 (Alan Wilson / Wikimedia)

Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), the country’s largest carrier, might soon launch a scheduled service to Guangzhou, China. The company has applied with the State Aviation Administration of Ukraine for a permission to operate to this destination.

The national aviation authority will hold a meeting to consider the issue on September 29. The flag carrier expects the permission to come into effect on October 1, 2017. It further hopes that the licence will be permanent, and will imply three weekly frequencies.

UIA is currently the only airline to serve Chinese destinations from Ukraine. The carrier provides daily services between Kyiv and Beijing. It also performs long-haul flights from the Ukrainian capital to other popular destinations, such as New York, Bangkok, and Colombo.

Moreover, UAI has repeatedly spoken of its plans to launch new long-range flights. It appears that these plans have started to turn into reality recently. On May 1, 2018, the carrier will start operations to Delhi with three weekly frequencies initially, and with a view to bring the number up to four flights per week after July 7.

Denys Antonyuk, former head of the Ukrainian State Aviation Administration, believes UIA chose Guangzhou because it had faced problems with getting slots at Shanghai airport, which had been on the agenda of the carrier after the latter had launched flights to Beijing: “Shanghai introduced a new runway several years ago, offering new slots to many carriers. UIA was not among the lucky ones, so now the airport has nothing interesting left on offer. The situation at Guangzhou is obviously much better than at Shanghai and Beijing.”

The UIA press office has indirectly confirmed to Russian Aviation Insider that flights to Shanghai might not get launched due to slot issues: “Flights to Guangzhou is not a goal in itself for us, we consider it as one of the possible alternatives to Shanghai as convenient slots there remain an issue. But Shanghai is still our priority.”

Says Antonyuk: “If we compare passenger flows between the three Chinese cities and Europe, we will see that Guangzhou enjoys the weakest one, but the competition there is also the lowest. Remarkably, Central and Eastern Europe have no direct connections with Guangzhou at all. Turkish Airlines and Aeroflot will be the main competitors in this hunt for transit passenger traffic to Central and Eastern Europe. Direct passenger traffic between Ukraine and Guangzhou is roughly half of that for the flow to Shanghai, but it is significantly higher compared to any other regional center in China,”

Besides, the quality of passenger traffic between Ukraine and Shanghai differs from that between Ukraine and Guangzhou, the former Ukrainian official stresses: “Guangzhou has more to offer to trade as the city hosts multiple expositions of commodities which are popular in Ukraine, such as clothes and bathroom fittings; these can be easily shipped to Odessa in a container by sea. Apart from that, a flight to Guangzhou can turn into a gateway to the Pearl River Delta area for Ukraine, implying access to such metropolitan cities as Hong Kong, Macau, and Shenzhen.”

Should Ukraine actively launch new flights to China in the near future, it might shortly encounter the problem of slot availability for the new destinations. “To my mind, Ukraine needs to fly daily to the three biggest Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou if it is intends to embrace the key economic centers of the country.” says Antonyuk.

“The bilateral air cooperation agreement entitles both parties to have up to 14 weekly frequencies each. UIA has already used up seven frequencies for flights to Beijing, meaning that there are seven more frequencies left for the remaining two cities, let alone other minor destinations. Obviously, the Ukrainian-Chinese flight program does not have too many chances for a significant diversification.”

Ukrainian International Airlines will most likely use its new aircraft to perform long-haul flights, including to China. The UIA press office revealed to Russian Aviation Insider that the carrier will add Boeing 777s to its fleet in January 2018.

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