Wizz Air is rushing to get staff out of Ukraine after commercial flights to and from the country were suspended. Wizz Air was originally one of the few airlines giving people the opportunity to leave the country at a time when Ukraine was being threatened with invasion. At that time last week, a number of countries including the UK and US were advising their citizens to leave. However unfortunately the tables have turned and Wizz Air is now in difficulty.

Problems Facing Wizz Air

The Hungarian based airline is currently scrambling to rescue four aircraft and staff currently in Ukraine. Many airlines at the time when Russia was about to launch into Ukraine already stopped flying to Ukraine. This includes KLM Royal Dutch Airlines as well as British Airways which has not been flying to Ukraine for some time.

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Wizz Air is a Hungarian ultra-low-cost carrier. | © Marco Macca Travel Radar

At the time Wizz Air was continuing, many airlines were choosing not to due to rising insurance costs due to escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia. Insurance companies were being more cautious due to the tragedy of MH17, a Malaysian Airlines flight, which was shot down while flying near eastern Ukraine’s conflict zone in July 2014. All 298 passengers and crew were killed.

Now however the situation is different. Ukraine has closed its space to civilian flights on the 24th February. Even if their airspace is open however, it would be very dangerous to fly there anyway whilst the capital Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine are being bombarded by missiles as well as gun fire and other weapons from Russian ground forces. However, the main concern appears to be that the flight ban is hampering efforts to rescue the planes and staff.

Despite this a spokesman for Wizz has said that there remains the possibility of flying the planes out of the country. Three of the aircraft are in Kyiv and one is in Lyiv. Each plane has a list price of one hundred million dollars (seventy five million pounds) when new.

Other Companies

Other companies with operations in Ukraine are also trying to protect their staff there. According to the Telegraph, WPP, the world’s biggest advertising agency said that it is on standby to help 200 staff to leave the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Mark Reed, Chief Executive of WPP said that they had been working with their staff in Ukraine over the past few weeks to provide a package of financial support and access to medical facilities. They have also been helping staff who want to relocate.

CMS, a London based international law firm has helped some of its employees move from its Kyiv office to EU countries. Whilst it has declined to comment on the numbers, it has said it has a dedicated team assisting colleagues in exploring solutions in what is a fast changing situation. They have shut their office in Kyiv until further notice. Another law firm Baker McKenzie as well as the chocolate maker Nestle have also shut their operations in Ukraine. For Nestle however this appears to be a temporary solution and it aims to restart operations soon. Nevertheless, as one can see many companies in a range of businesses are scrambling for the exit at a difficult time like this.

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Wizz Air remains determined to evacuate its personnel © Wizz Air

Wizz Air however remains determined even under these circumstances to help its staff. A spokesman for the airline has said that they will be evacuating at the earliest opportunity all of their Ukrainian based crew, their immediate families and any families of Wizz Air Ukrainian nationals who wish to leave the country. We hope that Wizz Air manages to realise this ambition and help those individuals who have unfortunately ended up in difficulty as a result of the Russian invasion.

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