Ryanair to launch flights to Ukraine from October


Kiev (AFP)

Irish low-cost airline Ryanair said Friday it would launch flights to Ukraine from October, in an about-face after dropping such plans just months earlier.

"Ryanair is pleased to announce that low fares have officially arrived in Ukraine, our 36th country of operation," CEO Michael O'Leary said in a statement, adding the flights would start in October.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hailed the airline's decision.

"I am very pleased that we started this fantastic cooperation," he said during a ceremony which saw Ryanair sign an agreement with two airports, in Kiev and Lviv, on Friday.

Ryanair said it would operate 10 new routes from the Ukrainian capital to Barcelona, Bratislava, Gdansk, Krakow, London, Poznan, Stockholm, Vilnius, Warsaw and Wroclaw.

It will also launch five new routes from the Western city of Lviv to Dusseldorf, Krakow, London, Memmingen and Warsaw.

O'Leary estimated that some 800,000 customers would use the routes annually.

Several foreign low-budget airlines are already present in Ukraine.

But the arrival of the no-frills Irish carrier is expected to be a boon for the country, making fares cheaper and boosting its battered tourism sector.

Ukraine, which in 2013-2014 saw a pro-EU revolt, is still struggling to end a conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.

It is trying to get its tourism industry back on its feet, after the number of travellers to Ukraine plummeted because of the unrest.

In March 2017, Ryanair said it would enter Ukraine with four new routes departing from Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands.

But in July last year it abandoned the plans, claiming that Kiev's airport had not fulfilled pledges made as part of an unspecified "growth agreement".

The carrier did not provide any details explaining its change of heart.