06 April, 2018

Ryanair to face a legal challenge in Ukraine

Ukraine’s largest airline is about to launch new legal action over the entry of Irish low-cost high-fee carrier Ryanair into the market should complaints over airport slots are not listened to, news agency Reuters is reporting today.

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Ukrainian government officials had made overtures to Ryanair over the last few years to entice the carrier to shake up the aviation industry as well as allowing the Ukrainian government to show a more pro-business, pro-western stance. However, Ukraine International Airlines, part-owned by Ihor Kolomoisky, a very wealthy Ukrainian business mogul says the authorities in Kiev have given exceptional support to the Irish airline yet have been less than positive towards local airlines. 

Only last year Ryanair said “not yet a sufficiently mature or reliable business location” of Ukraine after walking away from talks with the authorities following Ukraine International Airlines starting legal action. Yet, only towards the end of last month, Ryanair proclaimed its arrival on the Ukrainian airline scene, not only with flights to Ukraine but with 10 new Kiev routes to Barcelona, Bratislava, Gdansk, Krakow, London Stansted, Poznan, Stockholm, Vilnius, Warsaw and Wroclaw and 5 new Lviv routes to Dusseldorf, Krakow, London Stansted, Memmingen and Warsaw.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters, his first since the Ryanair announcement, Yuri Miroshnikov, Ukraine International Airlines ceo, claims the Irish carrier has starting selling tickets for flights with very familiar timings and without prior permission. “Slots which they are expecting to receive are all occupied by Ukraine International flights, transit flights, where the connecting times are very important, where we know, we already understand that airport infrastructure in these peak times is a bottleneck for us,” he told Reuters.

“I can have only one explanation: They (Ryanair) hope and believe that under pressure from various sources the issue somehow will be resolved (in their favour),” he said. “And they don’t care.”

It is an explanation that would, without doubt, damage Ukraine International Airlines and Mr Miroshnikov promised to "Protect our interests in the court,” 

However, the ever bullish Ryanair deny any wrongdoing or illegal activity claiming Miroshnikov is being hysterical and indicative of his anticompetition agenda.  Ryanair promised its fares from Kiev would start at €19.99, yet with fees included the average one-way fare works out to €49 one way.

The management at Kiev's Boryspil airport confirmed Ryanair hadn't yet been given the slot times for the flights the Irish carrier had put on sale. “We can say that they started selling tickets without having received an agreement on slots at our airport ... What’s more, they haven’t even asked us about slots yet,” they told Reuters via an email.

The political power of Ukraine is firmly on the side of the Ryanair, “I sincerely hope that the president of Ukraine or the infrastructure minister won’t concern themselves with slot issues,” the Infrastructure Minister, Volodymyr Omelyan reportedly told Reuters, adding “I don’t have a single doubt that Ryanair will start flights and the people who have already bought or are buying tickets will use the services of this airline.”

Ukraine International Airlines is in favour of competition Miroshnikov insisted, as long as it was fair competition and one airline isn't benefitting above all others.