EU-Ukraine Competition Heats Up
European airlines are duking it out for the Ukrainian market a week after the EU and Ukraine signed a new open-skies agreement. While it’s early days yet, Europe’s growth juggernauts Ryanair and Wizz Air are already making plays for the newly opened market. Capacity on the Irish discounter is scheduled to increase 205 percent in the third quarter of 2022 — including the peak summer months of July and August — compared to 2019, according to Cirium data. And capacity on its Hungarian competitor will be up 57 percent over the same period. Wizz is already the largest carrier between the EU and Ukraine, and maintains that leadership position even with Ryanair’s growth. In addition, with booking curves still historically short, Summer 2022 schedules are at best a roadmap of what airlines’ plan to fly next year and far from a firm plan.
The open skies agreement prompted Wizz to expand its bases in Kyiv and Lviv. The discounter will add five Airbus A321s at the former for a total of eight, and two at the latter for three. The additional aircraft will support 21 new routes that launch from December through August 2022. Wizz will connect Kyiv to: Alicante, Barcelona, Basel-Mulhouse, Brussels Charleroi, Chania-Crete, Eindhoven, Madrid, Malaga, Nice, Palma de Mallorca, Paris Beauvais, and Porto. And Lviv to: Athens, Barcelona, Brussels Charleroi, Eindhoven, Madrid, Nice, Paris Beauvais, Thessaloniki, and Treviso.
And in 2022, Wizz will also connect Odessa to Athens, London Luton, and Pardubice; and Kharkiv to Pardubice and Thessaloniki. Wizz forecasts that it will fly 120 percent more capacity to Ukraine next summer compared to 2019.
Ryanair has only announced one new route — Manchester to Lviv twice-weekly from November 5 — since the open-skies announcement. However, more are likely after Group CEO Michael O’Leary said in September that the airline would be a “major investor in Ukraine” if such an agreement was signed.
- Staying in Europe, Ryanair will also connect Edinburgh and Marrakesh with twice-weekly flights from December 18. The route is part of what the discounter claims is its commitment to “rebuilding Europe’s aviation and tourism industry.”
- Air France-KLM‘s budget arm Transavia France is adding another sunny spot to its winter schedule. The airline will connect Paris Orly to Hurghada on the Red Sea in Egypt once weekly from December 19.
- And Icelandic startup Fly Play received its U.S. foreign air carrier permit last week. The low-cost carrier plans to begin U.S. flights next spring ahead of the peak summer travel season. While Play hasn’t said exactly what routes it will fly from its Reykjavík hub, CEO Birgir Jónsson said in September that it U.S. network would be a “mixture of Baltimore, Washington, Boston, [and] New York.”
- Qantas is returning to India after a nearly decade-long hiatus in December. The airline will connect Sydney to Delhi — its first scheduled Indian destination since ending Mumbai flights in 2012 — thrice weekly with an Airbus A330 from December 6 through March, with an eye on extending that further depending on demand. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce cited the airline’s familiarity with the Indian market after operating 40 repatriation flights for the Australian government, and Australians’ “phenomenal” appetite to travel as the country preps for a vaccine-led reopening in adding Delhi.
- The U.S. reopening to vaccinated travelers in November is not coming soon enough for several long-haul Delta Air Lines routes. The carrier has indefinitely suspended — often code for cancelled — flights between Atlanta and Stuttgart, Los Angeles and Shanghai Pudong, and Salt Lake City and London Heathrow, according to Cirium schedules and confirmed by Delta. While the moves make some sense in connection with the Covid-19 slowdown, they do raise some questions about what business the carrier sees returning: London is the base of equity and joint venture partner Virgin Atlantic Airways; the Stuttgart flight was long supported by corporate travel from German automakers; Shanghai is the home base of equity partner China Eastern Airlines.
- But the U.S. domestic market remains hot. Boise, for one, is a favorite for Alaska Airlines in the recovery. The Seattle-based carrier recently upgraded the Idaho capital to a focus city with the addition of two more routes: Idaho Falls and Las Vegas from June 16. With the new additions, Alaska has unveiled seven new routes from Boise — including Austin, Chicago O’Hare, Phoenix, Paine Field near Seattle, and Pullman-Moscow, Wash. — to date this year.
- Avelo Airlines unveiled two more new routes: Las Vegas to Redding, Calif., from January 6, and New Haven, Conn., to Sarasota-Bradenton from January 13. The routes come as the startup continues to expand its map, both in Sin City and at its new Connecticut base that launches in November.
- And Sun Country Airlines will expand with seven new destinations next spring. The carrier will connect its Minneapolis-St. Paul base to Charleston, S.C., and Jacksonville from April, and Buffalo, Burlington, Pittsburgh, Spokane, and Vancouver from June.
- To the North, airlines are eagerly adding flights following Canada’s reopening. Air Canada will offer new seasonal service between Quebec City and both Calgary and Vancouver from May 21 through the summer. The routes aim to take advantage of summer leisure travel. Air Canada will go up against Transat on the Quebec City-Vancouver route, Cirium schedules show.
- And budget startup Flair Airlines will grow its schedule by a third with the addition of four Boeing 737 Max jets next March and April. The aircraft will allow it to add Comox, B.C., Denver, Nashville and San Francisco to its map as part of a 14-route expansion. The new routes will focus primarily on three Canadian bases: Edmonton to Comox from March, and to Montreal, Nashville, Regina, San Francisco, Saskatoon and Winnipeg from April; Toronto to Denver and Nashville from April, and to Victoria, B.C., from May; and Vancouver to Kelowna and San Francisco from May.