Ryanair and Ukraine continued to exchange verbal jabs following the collapse of a deal to launch new air routes to one of Europe’s biggest nations.
However, the man tasked with sparking a new round of talks on Ukraine’s behalf remained hopeful and argued that a deal is “still on the table” and he expects Ryanair to be operating in the country next year.
“Ryanair are still negotiating and I fully expect that in 2018 Ryanair will be in Ukraine,” said Daniel Bilak, the Canadian-born Director of Ukraine Invest, the country’s investment promotion agency.
“At the end of the day, Ukraine is a nation of 46 million people and the size of France. I don’t think Ryanair has many markets left in Europe like that. So I suspect that we will reach some form of arrangement,” Bilak added.
Bilak, also the Chief Investment Adviser to the Prime Minister of Ukraine, is slated to be a guest speaker at the economics and comedy festival called “Kilkenomics” which will be held in Kilkenny. Before the deal faltered, Ryanair had vowed to add four routes to Kiev and seven to Lviv and had even begun selling tickets on routes.
Ukraine is viewed as the last frontier for low-cost carriers in Europe after the EU granted visa-free travel to its citizens.
The deal fell through when Kiev’s Boryspil airport—the country’s main air hub, with an annual passenger traffic numbering 13 million—rebuffed it as economically unviable. It was a public setback to Ukraine’s bid to entice foreign investment as the country transitions towards the EU three years on from its pro-democracy revolution. Accounts have varied over why the talks failed.
Ryanair accused Kiev’s main Boryspil Airport of “failure to honor a growth agreement.” But Bilak has canned Ryanair’s version of events.
“I don’t hold the view that Ryanair had ever left the negotiation; they just started negotiating a little differently, they went to the press. Unfortunately, you can never be criticised for impugning Ukraine’s reputation,” Bilak said.
“Obviously, Ryanair felt that they could do that and that they had an easy buy-in because of the difficult brand that we have,” he added.
Boryspil Airport argued that a memorandum of understanding was signed with Ryanair without its say-so and alleged that the airline made irrational commercial demands.
“Ryanair are very tough negotiators, they are very aggressive. Would we like to have Ryanair in Ukraine? Absolutely. Would we like to have Ryanair or any other carrier in at any cost? Absolutely not,” said Bilak.
Ryanair has since declined to comment, saying, “We don’t comment on commercial negotiations.”