Following a global trend of dwindling demand, and severe staff shortages caused by the Covid-19 Omicron variant, fewer planes are now entering Ukrainian skies as Irish low-cost airline Ryanair cancels flights across Europe.
In September, Ryanair stated that it planned to “expand aggressively” in Ukraine following the country's accession to the “Open Skies” agreement, which allows foreign airlines greater access to the Ukrainian market.
This expansion, however, did not materialize. Instead, Ukraine has been hit hard by flight cancellations by major European airlines, including Ryanair.
According to data from the Ukrainian travel website Lowcostavia, Ryanair canceled 17 Ukrainian routes in January, with seven more routes scheduled to be canceled in February. These cancellations mostly affect flights from Lviv, Kharkiv, and Odesa, as well as flights to smaller Ukrainian cities.
The cancelation leaves some cities without any Ryanair flights. One of them is Kharkiv in Ukraine’s east, the country's second-biggest city with a population of 1.4 million people. These reductions are scheduled to last at least until the end of February.
Ryanair did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Similarly, Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air has suspended flights to 20 destinations from Ukraine. The airline no longer operates any flights from Zaporizhzhia and Odesa, until March at the earliest.
Ukraine International Airlines has also suspended flights from Boryspil International Airport near Kyiv to Tbilisi and Athens until March.
According to a press release published by Ryanair, the low-cost airline cut 33% of all its flights in January, which represents a reduction of around 3-4 million seats. The airline blamed a spike in infections by the Covid-19 Omicron variant and the reintroduction of travel restrictions to most of Europe in January.
Across Europe, travel restrictions, as well as a surge in Covid-19 infections, have crippled European air traffic.
Pandemic restrictions and high infections have also sharply hit demand. In January, CNBC reported that airlines had been flying empty aircraft across Europe to secure landing spots. Now, airlines are canceling flights en masse.
Lufthansa Group has canceled a staggering 33,000 flights from January to February, according to the travel website Afar. That represents around 10% of all its winter flights.
While European carriers slash flights, Ukrainian carriers have begun to tentatively expand abroad.
The Ukrainian airline Azur Air, owned by Russian travel agency Anex Tour, recently received permits from the State Aviation Service of Ukraine to fly nine new routes to Spain and Greece.
Ukrainian low-cost regional airline Air Ocean also started its first regular service between Ukraine’s western city of Lviv and Kharkiv in December, although these flights were later suspended due to problems with the airline’s aircraft.
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