As the flag carrier and largest airline in the country, Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) is one of the first brands that passengers come in contact with when they visit Ukraine for either business or pleasure. This entails a responsibility that CEO Yuri Myroshnikov understands well after 14 years on the job
How has this airline evolved along with the country since your appointment in 2004?
One of our most significant achievements was the re-engineering that took place in 2011 immediately after privatization, and which transformed this from a small hybrid airline into a national carrier. We are proud to bear the Ukrainian flag and image throughout the world. We started out covering the Ukraine-Western Europe route, but are now global in scope: we are everywhere except Australia and South America. Yet we are still very small and relatively invisible in much of the world, and this is a problem that we share with our country. I believe that our joint efforts together with the government, the industry and tourism organizations to promote Ukraine as a destination and a convenient transit hub, will help us grow and attract more passengers. And in our capacity as carriers, we can help our country move forward as well.
New carriers are coming into the picture, including Ryanair, which are changing the market. What is your competitive advantage?
Scale of operations is one advantage: the network we operate gives us an edge that the others lack. We are also competitive in our pricing, although it is not our task to be cheaper than low-cost carriers. And because we provide more than point-to-point travel, we have a special commitment to our passengers: when you offer connecting flights, you need to be good at punctuality, at airport infrastructure and other issues that low-cost carriers do not take as much into consideration. We have an additional responsibility and commitment to get people to where they are going without delays or cancellations. In any case, I am happy to see competitors entering the market, as this makes you get better, so in the end everyone wins.
UIA has daily flights to major German cities. What is your message to potential German travellers thinking about coming to Ukraine, and why is Germany at the top of your list for expansion plans?
Germany is a big country with close ties to Ukraine, and it is being extremely supportive during these difficult times. Historically we started with two destinations in Germany, Berlin and Frankfurt, then expanded to three with Munich, and now we also have Düsseldorf. There are a lot of business ties between both countries and plans for future investment in Ukraine. There are also many Ukrainians and people from former Soviet republics who are immigrating to Germany, and we offer them good connections from Kiev. I cordially invite Germans to visit Ukraine and explore its beauty.
What are the international investment opportunities in UIA?
We are poised to take a new step in our history by renewing our fleet. We are closing down our classic 737 fleet and launching the operation of a 737 MAX fleet. Long-term funding is not available for Ukrainian businesses for various reasons, so this is an opportunity for outside investors. We are also finalizing our plans for the next 15 years and investors are welcome to participate in our projects to remain technologically competitive and be environmentally sustainable.
What does the new Ukraine stand for today?
We have made a lot of collective mistakes as a country. Some of these we are correcting already, and some are still pending. On some issues, we need advice from nations that are more advanced on the issue of the market economy. We also need to open up to the world more. Despite progress on this front in the last 15 years, we need to open up more, and not just to the EU. I believe that these efforts will work to the benefit of the people of Ukraine and to its neighbors.