Ukraine International Airlines’ passenger numbers declined in 2019

To optimise its capacity and climb out of the red, the Ukrainian flag carrier is to reduce its fleet size in 2020

Ukraine International Airlines UIA will retire five of its Boeing 737s before the end of 2020 (Ukraine International Airlines)

Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) carried 7.963 million passengers in 2019, a 0.6 per cent decrease on the previous year’s performance. Despite that, the country’s flag carrier remains the undisputed leader among Ukraine’s airlines.

The traffic reduction follows a flight optimisation programme that the airline’s new management initiated last autumn in an effort to turn it around, with the total number of flights cut by 4.6 per cent to 58,600, the airline told outlet.

In the period, passenger numbers on domestic and long-haul international flights continued to increase, whilst a 4.7 per cent decline was registered on core medium-haul international flights, which generated 5.313 million passengers, the bulk of UIA’s entire traffic. The remaining passengers travelled on the airline’s charter flights (1.27 million, up 15.4 per cent year-on-year), long-haul (662,700 passengers, up by 9.7 per cent) and domestic flights (960,400 passengers, up 2.3 per cent). The carrier’s average seat load factor improved by 1.3 percentage points, reaching 81.8 per cent, and as high as 92.1 per cent on charter flights. The share of transfer passengers decreased somewhat, from 52.6 per cent in 2018 to 50.5 per cent.

Furthermore, UIA is to continue adjusting its capacity until it climbs out of the red, the airline’s president Evgeniy Dykhne revealed to, emphasising that the airline will resume fleet expansion only once the route network is optimised.

From the 42 aircraft in operation in 2019, only 34 will remain in the airline’s fleet this year. In November 2019, as part of the optimisation initiative, two wide-body Boeing 767s were phased out and, tragically, one of UIA’s Boeing 737-800s (registration UR-PSR) was lost in a crash in Iran after being struck by a missile on January 8 this year. Additionally, three Boeing 737-800s will be returned to the lessor when their lease contracts expire in February and in March, followed by a further two before the end of this year. “We are counting on resuming our fleet expansion once the loss-making routes have been closed and the network is optimised, which should result in making UIA profitable again,” Dykhne insists.

Once the four -800s leave the fleet, Ukraine International Airlines will have 19 Boeing 737-800s, four Boeing 737-900ERs, two Boeing 767-300ERs, three Boeing 777-200ERs, two Embraer 195s and five Embraer 190s.

In 2019, with its total of 7.963 million passengers, UIA nevertheless maintained its indisputable leadership role among Ukraine’s airlines, followed by Azur Air Ukraine, which carried 1.74 million passengers last year, and SkyUp with 1.7 million.

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