Europe’s largest airline, Ryanair, has committed itself to being the first to return to serving Ukraine once possible to do so. Ukraine’s airspace has been closed since the country was invaded by its neighbour Russia.
Speaking on Wednesday, the ultra-low-cost carrier’s boss, Michael O’Leary, said that he would enact his promise as soon as the EU Aviation Safety Agency lifts restrictions. EASA currently advises all operators to avoid the country’s airspace at any flight level.
Ryanair carrying freight “for first time in 30 years”
The commitment from Ryanair was made despite its own hesitancy as to when it may be possible to resume operations. “I suspect it will probably [be] summer,” Mr O’Leary commented – “or maybe next winter.”
In the meantime, Mr O’Leary added that his airline has been assisting with the humanitarian effort by transporting supplies from the British Isles to various Polish airports near its border with Ukraine. He commended Polish authorities for their swift action taking the supplies immediately from the airports to the border. The move allegedly marks the first time in 30 years the airline has carried freight.
Close relationship with Ukraine
Ryanair has nurtured strong links with Ukraine in recent years, with the Irish airline currently estimated to be the second-largest in the eastern-European country’s market, according to industry consultancy IBA. An estimated 2 million passengers were expected to travel in and out of the country this financial year.
Ryanair says that as it has no aircraft based in Ukraine, those that had been expected to serve Ukrainian routes will be reallocated elsewhere in an attempt to minimise any impact on passenger numbers.
The comments were made at an event hosted by the airline to announce the most extensive summer schedule in its history, including new routes serving Gatwick, Luton and Stansted. Speaking about his general expectations for British and Irish travellers, he said there is “huge pent-up demand”, adding “Easter looks very strong at the moment.”
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