As the war in Ukraine continues unabated, Ukraine’s skies are still off-limits, and Ukraine International Airlines planes lie idle. Kyiv is still being bombarded by artillery, as are other parts of western Ukraine. This is despite the fact that Vladimir Putin, the Russian President’s aims, were now to concentrate on the Eastern Donbas region. According to Liz Truss, the UK Foreign Minister, the war in Ukraine could last ten years, as stated in the Daily Mail. Therefore, the aviation industry has to be prepared for the long haul.
For Ukraine’s flagship carrier, therefore, there are now difficult times ahead as planes are going to be grounded for the long term. However, in the midst of this, there is some respite as, according to Simple Flying, airBaltic has agreed to lease one of Ukraine’s International Airlines planes and crew (a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-900ER twinjet narrow-body). This will provide much-needed revenue for Ukraine’s flagship carrier.
The type of lease that will form the basis of the contract is known as a wet lease. This means that the plane as well as its crew of Ukraine International Airlines, are effectively “rented” by airBaltic. In contrast, a dry lease would involve leasing the plane only and providing its own staff.
Ukrainian International Airlines benefits threefold. This is because, in addition to the revenue received from leasing out its planes, it is also benefiting as its staff a being used and paid and therefore are not either dependent on the airline or the state for some form of benefit. In addition, rather than keeping the plane idle, where wear and tear and storage costs may be more, keeping the plane operational will ensure that the plane is kept in better condition and is better maintained.
airBaltic also benefits because it has found a quicker and potentially more cost-effective way of increasing the supply of planes and staff to meet the increased demand now that pandemic restrictions are being relaxed. This is because the cost of purchasing a plane and the time it takes for it to be delivered can be avoided. In many cases, this can take years. In addition, the cost of and time is taken recruiting and potentially training new staff is also avoided. This type of arrangement is, therefore, a win-win situation for both airBaltic as well Ukraine International Airlines.
airBaltic is the flag carrier of Latvia. According to Simple Flying, its CEO Martin Gauss has highlighted that Ukrainian International Airlines has been a trusted partner of airBaltic for a long time. So, following the crisis in Ukraine and the problems the population is facing, including the challenges with the nation’s flag carrier, his company is proud to wet lease their aircraft and provide short-term work for the airline’s staff.
Ukrainian International Airlines Vice President of Commerce Sergey Fomenko also expressed his gratitude for the help received from airBaltic. He describes airBaltic as a very good partner and friend and states that this act of international aviation cooperation is very symbolic and important.
airBaltic has also stated that it opposes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and is fully supportive of Ukraine and its commerce. It has no plans to fly to Russia this year. However, it has been suggested that it would resume flights to Ukraine as soon as possible.
As one can see, Ukraine and its associated aviation sector have a lot to deal with. However, the type of arrangement that its flagship carrier has entered into with Latvia’s flagship carrier could provide a blueprint for future associations with other airlines who want to quickly increase their supply of planes and staff as demand is expected to surge this summer. We wait to see if more arrangements such as this are on the cards and whether any more successful partnerships like this will be formed in the future.