Video of the week – There’s a change at the top for Ukraine International Airlines as Yuri Miroshnikov stands down after 15 years as CEO

Earlier this month, Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) announced the resignation of its longstanding president Yuri Miroshnikov. His successor, Yevhenii Dykhne, will take up his position this week and had previously served as acting director general and first deputy CEO at the airline’s main base, Kyiv Boryspil International airport. His key objective is to return the airline to profitability while ensuring sustainable development of the network business model.

Mr Miroshnikov started working for UIA in 1993 and had managed the airline for the last 15 years. According to the carrier, his leadership has helped transform what was a local hybrid airline with eight aircraft, 870 employees, and 640 thousand passengers into Ukraine’s flag carrier with 42 medium and long-haul aircraft, route network of over 50 destinations, nearly 3,000 employees, carrying eight million passengers carried a year.

“My entire career is dedicated to aviation and UIA,” said Mr Miroshnikov in a statement confirming his retirement. He continues his involvement as a board member for the airline. “As a non-executive, I am committed to investing my expertise and experience to add value to the airline’s business and help the executive team to develop the long-term strategy and find solutions to tough managerial challenges,” he added.

CAPA TV spoke to Mr Miroshnikov at the IATA AGM in Seoul, South Korea in early Jun-2019 to learn more about UIA’s development plans and in particular how the carrier intended to continue implementing its fleet renewal and rejuvenation programme, despite the indefinite postponing of the delivery of three 737 MAX aircraft.

Like other operators of the type, UIA was forced to adjust the schedule and cut frequencies due to the delay in the delivery of its 737 MAX aircraft. The carrier was scheduled to take delivery of its third 737 MAX by mid Jun-2019. Mr Miroshnikov said: “We were thinking about more charters, maybe some ACMI business because we had a little bit of a spare capacity, so now we have nothing, that is all wiped out and basically we have a shortage”.

UIA was initially planning flat capacity for 2019 as part of a decision to stabilise its operation after four years of rapid expansion. The airline now expects a 5% to 6% decline in capacity this year due to the deferral of three 737 MAX 8s, which were initially slated to be delivered in 2Q2019. The 737 MAX 8s are a critical component of an ongoing fleet renewal initiative which includes the phase out of 737 Classics in Nov-2018 and the phase out of 767s this winter.

UIA also recently added two E195s which are being used mainly to regional airports that were able to handle 737 Classics but cannot accommodate 737-800s or 737 MAX 8s. Its supervisory board chairman Aron Mayberg this month said UIA plans to add two to four Embraer E195 aircraft to the fleet in 2020 to support regional operations.

The MAX delays have been compounded by increasing competition from LCCs. Ukraine is attracting LCCs and prices are falling further due to their presence and growing competition. “We’re fighting the course every day and every minute, it’s not easy to achieve the level of LCCs operating the hub and spoke model,” said Mr Miroshnikov. He added: “We are delivering the principle of low price network carrier”.

LEARN MORE… In this comprehensive interview recorded on the sidelines of the IATA AGM in Seoul in Jun-2019, Ukraine International Airlines’ (UIA) now departed CEO Yuri Miroshnikov discusses the impact of the 737 MAX grounding, intensifying LCC competition in Ukraine, the decision to take a break from expansion and its future fleet plan.