Ukraine International Airlines Wants To Add Flights To Chicago, Miami, Toronto, And More

Filed Under: Ukraine

Ukraine International Airlines is improving nicely. I flew the airline a bit over a year ago from Kiev to New York, and the route was operated by one of their extremely outdated 767s. One of the ways that the airline will improve is that they’re taking delivery of four 777s, featuring flat beds in business class. Going from their 767 business class (which is more like premium economy) to a 777 with flat beds is a huge improvement.

Ukraine International Airlines’ old business class

Ukraine International Airlines’ new business class

The airline presently has a fleet of 39 aircraft, and they have a further 17 aircraft on order, including three 777s, six 737s, and eight Embraer regional jets. However, it looks like the airline has lofty expansion goals that way surpass what you’d expect based on their fleet.

The Kyiv Post quotes the head of Ukraine International Airlines’ supervisory board as saying that the airline is planning significant growth over the next five years. Their plan sure is detailed, given that they’ve listed the routes that they plan to add every year. Here are the details of the new destinations they’re hoping for, by year:

  • 2018 — Vinnytsia, Copenhagen, Cairo, Delhi, Toronto, Sanya
  • 2019 — Mykolaiv, Hamburg, Lisbon, Naples, Oslo, Gomel, Ashgabat, Tashkent, Izmir, Shanghai
  • 2020 — Uzhgorod, Dublin, Manchester, Bologna, Gdansk, Bishkek, Kuwait, Miami, Guangzhou
  • 2021 — Zagreb, Varna, Tallinn, Seoul
  • 2022 — Belgrade, Bratislava, Beirut, Shiraz, Addis Ababa, Chicago

That’s a lot of new routes, and in particular, a lot of routes that are several years off. In terms of longhaul routes (let’s call that 3,000+ miles, as those routes can’t be operated by 737s) they’re looking at Toronto, Shanghai, Miami, Seoul, and Chicago, which is a significant amount of growth for the airline to add, especially as they haven’t announced plans to acquire further planes. There’s also a chance that some of the other flights would need to be operated by widebodies, given the airspace restrictions that UIA faces.

I’m certainly rooting for them here, but given the lack of connecting traffic to Russia, and also given that the airline doesn’t have hundreds of millions of dollars to blow through, I do wonder how much of this growth is driven by pride rather than the realistic hope of profit.

UIA will be an interesting airline to watch over the coming years…

What do you make of UIA’s growth plans?

  1. They were supposed to launch the route to Gdansk in early 2018. Sad to finally see it postponed so far in the future.

    Toronto and Shanghai were also planned for this year, but I think they have a slight delay with those 777s. Still very nice to hear such news as they operate a bunch of niche routes (e.g. three cities in Kazakhstan, a rarity for European airlines).

  2. Maybe they should work on their cabin and IFE first!
    no one wants to feel like it’s 1995 when they fly

  3. Chicago makes sense, with a large Ukrainian population there. There’s even a neighborhood called “Ukrainian Village” on the west side.

  4. I flew them in December Frankfurt to Kiev and because of strike in Frankfurt by check in agents, missed connection and spent night at airport and flew to Kharkov next day.

    One way back took flight Kharkov to Kiev and thank God connected to BA to Heathrow.

    I would only ever fly UIA again if only damn airline on route. Always was delayed

  5. Ukraine International is a strange case.
    On the paper it should have been dead by now. Not that they just lost flights to Russia, they also lost rights to flight OVER Russia (and they don’t flight over Crimea either) which makes KyivAsia routes at least 1hr longer vs competitors.
    On top of that they also lost access to the Ukrainian airports #2 and #3 circa 2013 (Donetsk and Simferopol)
    Country went into the deep recession in 2014-2015 after the war in the East. National currency lost 70% of its value.
    It’s a textbooks example of a perfect storm.
    Also, Despite being a “national flagship carrier” UIA is not owned by a government or government affiliated structures. It is owned mostly by Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky who is currently in very shaky relationships with Ukrainian government (he is smartly residing in Geneva and doesn’t show up in Ukraine anymore)
    Airline is not subsidized by Ukrainian government by any means.
    In fact current UA minister of infrastructure somehow decided that UIA is monopolistic evil in Ukraine and does everything possible to bring Ryanair to UIA hub Kyiv-Boryspil .
    Ironically enough, main UIA hub ( government owned ) airport Boryspil just posted record profit last year. They Are actually making money for the government, not the other way around.
    Kyiv also has second airport Zhulyany which is a good alternative airport (mostly used by WizzAir and other lowcosts) so there is enough competition even in Kyiv.
    Secondary Ukrainian airports are absolutely fair game – pretty much anyone who wants to fly there does fly (with exception of Dnipro airport which is a separate story) . Lviv is a perfect example with 4x daily flights by LOT to Warsaw (only 2x flights to Kyiv by UIA)
    With all that being said, UIA managed to survive and somehow even grow. 25% growth last year.
    Russian market went south, but UIA started focusing on other ex-Soviet republics like Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan etc. Plus some far Asian destinations like Thailand, China, Ind
    Combined with fairly strong European network (typically 2x flights a day to each city) and very competitive fares it started clicking. Visa-free entry to Schengen zone for Ukrainian citizens since June 2017 added even more traffic.
    We all know that current UIA 767 fleet is a joke (especially in business class ), but hopefully 777s will make it more attractive for long-haul travelers (although it appears that instead of replacing 767 to 777 1:1 management decided to hold on to old 767s for a little longer. In the last week or two there even was a talk that 777 are not really here to replace old 767s, instead UIA is looking into buying some 787s to replace 767s.
    So I guess they really like long haul routes.
    We will see

  6. I’m quite exited and simultanesly concern with so many awful reviews to fly with them. I have booked in the end of the month, London To Bangkok with one stop in Kiev in business class and return.

  7. Detroit, Toronto and Chicago have huge Ukrainian and Eastern European communities.

    It’s too bad that Ukraine International Airlines decided for an outdated 2x2x2 business-class configuration.

    If they had a great 1x2x1 product, they would be a perfect new Sky Team partner.

  8. @Steve “What the hell do you know about Chicago’s Ukranian Village?”

    Pretty much everything…

  9. @Filipe Ventura
    KBP to Bangkok is supposed to be on the (kinda) new 777, so you may be ok. Let us know about your experience.
    LGWKBP is a regular 737. No better or worse than BA intra-europe business class.

  10. @FNT Delta Diamond
    I have a vague feeling that members of the eastern European communities in the mentioned above cities generally do not fly business class.
    And BTW, unlike Chicago or Toronto , Detroit doesn’t have much of eastern European communities left.

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