13:50 13.10.2023

As soon as Ukraine allows airlines to return to flights, we will be the first – SkyUp General Director

32 min read
As soon as Ukraine allows airlines to return to flights, we will be the first – SkyUp General Director

What is it like to be a Ukrainian airline in Europe? Dmytro Seroukhov, General Director at SkyUp, shares insights and stories from the life of the carrier, and tells about the further plans of returning to Ukraine and growing business abroad in an interview with Interfax-Ukraine News Agency.

- SkyUp Airlines received a certificate of a foreign air carrier FAR129, which allows it to carry out operational activities in the US market. It also received a FAOC certificate, which allows it to perform charter flights and provide ACMI services in the airspace of Canada. What attracted you to the markets of these countries? How do you plan to develop there?

-  We receive all these certificates not to put them on the shelf, but to be able to work. The certificates we received allow us to fly to the US. America and a number of other countries are regulated by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Canada requires a different certificate, which we received on September 27th. This is a big victory for us. Although, this is not just a victory, it is a huge work... and the certification is the result of this work. With these American and Canadian certificates, we can fly to these countries (USA and Canada) and we can fly from these countries. You know how we operate after a full-scale invasion, right?

- Yes, I know that you continue to work under ACMI contracts in Europe... And besides, you opened an airline in Malta, which greatly strengthened your position in the EU…

- Indeed, we fulfil many orders under ACMI contracts. These certifications, American and Canadian, enable us to be present on the ACMI market in these countries as well. And this is very good, because in these countries the season is not only summer but also a winter (in Europe, on the contrary, the winter months are the «low» season). For the USA and Canada, there is the Caribbean. The Caribbean is conditional, just like the resorts of Turkey and Egypt are for Ukraine. About the same distance, warm climate. This is their main leisure destination, where they take tourists (high season is from February to May, IF-U). And we see an opportunity to be relevant there with our service offerings for such contracts and projects.

- Are you considering only passenger transportation in the USA and Canada?

- We have a cargo licence for these countries. But now it is completely inappropriate.

- In the future?

- When you fly in any direction, for example, Kyiv-Warsaw, if you only have a passenger licence, you can carry passengers and their luggage. If you also have a cargo licence for cargo transportation, you can additionally transport individual cargo in the baggage compartments. And we do it.

- According to your press service reports, in addition to ACMI services, you plan to operate charter flights in the USA and Canada. Do you already have signed contracts?

- There are no signed contracts yet, but we are in negotiations. 

- Will name with whom?

- No. We'll let you know when it happens. First of all, we are considering ACMI contracts for ourselves, when we will be able to provide the aircraft, the crew, and we will independently maintain these flights, but these will be custom flights. We are also considering charter flights, but in the future.

- You continue to work in 2023 under ACMI contracts. Can you explain in detail what this situation is related to for Ukrainian airlines abroad? Why is it not possible to fly on your own, have your own call signs?

- We, Ukraine, as a region generally belong to the sphere of regulation of EASA and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). In the other part of the world, it is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Asia has its own regulation. Each regulation protects its market and has specific requirements for aircraft technical equipment and airline documentation that they must meet. We, as Ukraine, our state aviation service, Ukrainian regulatory rules meet the requirements of EASA. But commercial exploitation in Europe is regulated by the legislation of each country separately.

And each country has its own aviation authority, which grants permits for flights: charter or regular, any. When we fly from Ukraine to any part of the world, it is a Ukrainian carrier that carries out transportation from its country. When we, as a Ukrainian carrier, want to fly between Poland and Turkey, we have to get Turkish permission and Polish permission for such flights.

Since we are not a subject of business activity in either Poland or Turkey, we depend on the aviation freedoms existing in each country. They can be up to the seventh level. For example, in Dubai, in the Emirates, there is almost complete freedom. Regardless of who you are, where you're from, who you're transporting, please fly. Not so in Ukraine. Between Ukraine and the rest of the countries, flights must be carried out by either Ukrainian carriers or companies that meet the requirements of the country from which they fly.

At the same time, the countries of the European Union have a common aviation space. Due to the fact that it is shared, regardless of the country in which you are registered as an airline, you can fly throughout Europe. For example, an airline registered in Malta can fly between France and Germany.

But if the Maltese airline wants to fly to Turkey, it can only fly there from Malta. If you fly, for example, from Poland to Turkey, then the airline must be either Turkish or Polish. Because Turkey is not part of the European Union.

- Such regulation... Is this the main reason?

- If there was no such regulation, even an airline from Singapore could fly anywhere. Because then the airline is only relevant to the place of check-in from the point of view of taxation.

- Is the opening of an airline in Malta and certification in Europe a step towards independent flight operations? When and from which airports can they be performed?

- Yes, indeed, this is a step towards becoming a part of the European community, in order to be able to operate in Europe independently, and not only through providing ACMI services. Of course, now we can perform both regular and charter transportation in the European Union independently. When will the first charter flights be? They already are. When will the first regular flights be? We are planning from next spring.

- Please specify when you started operating charter flights in Europe?

- On September 20, the first flight between Europe and Egypt was performed. We currently operate charter flights between European countries and Egypt. These are the Baltic countries Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland, Romania, and Moldova.

- Will you expand this list of countries?

- Of course, we will.

- When will the first regular flights be performed and in which directions?

- We plan to start in April. We have a plan, we have a goal that we have to start in April (regular flights in Europe — IF-U). I assume that more realistically, we will start at the end of April, just before the May holidays.

- In which directions will there be flights?

- These will be flights within Europe.

- From somewhere to where?

- We are considering the possibility of opening regular flights from the same countries that I have already mentioned (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Romania, and Moldova — IF-U) to different, let's say, tourist destinations (points of destination — IF-U). For example, Greece, Cyprus, Spain.

- In what price range will you sell tickets? Do you see yourself as an airline in the low-cost segment? What is the average ticket price?

- When you talk about the average ticket price, it's not about aviation at all. There is no average ticket price. What is a ticket for you? Is it the transportation cost? Is it how much you spend to fly from somewhere to somewhere?

- For me, as a passenger, of course, the second.

- Then you understand correctly. If you analyze the open financial statements of airlines, you can see that nowadays in aviation the ticket itself costs about 40% of what the passenger spends. However, when a passenger additionally registers, buys a seat, for example, specifically near the window, pays for baggage transportation and other services, then he already pays 100% of the transportation.

Therefore, it depends on what model the airline chooses for itself, what it builds its revenue on, what it builds it from: whether from the ticket itself or from additional services. I cannot tell you yet what the average rate will be (fixed price of the service — IF-U). We have a planned revenue expectations, but between different destinations, depending on who our passenger is, they differ. For example, if we fly between Warsaw and Berlin, it will mostly be business passengers or ethnic traffic. And if we fly from Warsaw to Heraklion, then they will be tourists. And they will buy completely different sets of services in these two different directions.

And also many other nuances. Where there is a longer flight, there the range of services will be wider. Where the flight is shorter, there the range of services will be fewer. Where there will be a tourist flight, there will obviously be a charge for baggage. On business flights, preference will be given to hand luggage.

- Then I will ask the question another way, although it may sound not very professional to you. Regardless of the nuances you listed, for example, we, passengers, associate Lufthansa with a high ticket price and the corresponding status, and Wizz Air or Ryanair with an affordable ticket price and quite optimal service. In what price niche will you position yourself as an airline in Europe? Which segment will you be associated with?

- With a completely different one. And that's neither the first, nor the second. We have a clear understanding of who we are. We are an ultra-hybrid airline. We have a clear understanding that our set of services will be different. And service is a priority for us.

Someone positions themselves as ultra-low-cost, and for them the main thing there is transportation, that's all. Armchairs do not have a folding back, for example. You cannot buy freshly brewed coffee on board. Hot food cannot be ordered. You cannot transport your pet with you. You cannot buy a pillow or a blanket to feel more comfortable on a long flight. No internet access, etc. We are ultra-hybrid, both in the range of services and operations we perform.

The same plane, for example, flies three times a day. But one flight will be chartered, one regular, and one more at all like we will take the football team somewhere for meetings or training. This is our hybridity.

And we, unlike ultra-low-cost airlines, have luggage compartments that we love to fill with cargo. We load additional cargo and earn additional money from it. We focus on hybridization. And that's why we don't have face to face competition (direct competition — IF-U) with other European companies. Otherwise, we would not be able to win these competitions because the companies we compete with in Europe are much stronger.

- Is the airline in Malta an independent project of the shareholders or are there partners?

- This is a partner company created in Europe under the SkyUp brand. This is a company with a Ukrainian heart and Ukrainian staff.

- It is reported that by the end of 2023, SkyUp MT plans to receive new aircraft. They will not be from the Ukrainian fleet of SkyUp Airlines, but will arrive under new contracts. Have you decided on the number and modifications of the aircraft? Who are you negotiating with about them? Will the aircraft be leased?

- I will adjust your question a little. We are not talking about aircraft modifications, but rather about aircraft in general more likely.

- These will be Boeing-737, right?

- Yes, we work with Boeing-737, another generation. We continue to cooperate, we are looking at a new generation of aircraft, Boeing 737 MAX. Today, it is not easy for everyone in the market to attract new aircraft to their fleet due to the fact that we are observing recovery not only in Europe, but also in Asia, and in the USA, everywhere. There are not enough planes. At the same time, manufacturers have certain problems: some have logistical problems, some have supply problems, and some have quality problems.

- Is this the reason for the increase in prices for services for leasing aircraft?

- Yes, this lack of aircraft pushes the aircraft market to growth. Prices have increased significantly. They decreased significantly due to COVID, but now they have recovered to pre-Covid levels, and are even exceeding them. This is, in my opinion, a soap bubble and it inflates very slowly. It will not explode tomorrow, this growth will continue. An additional influence on this adds the problem of engines. There is one type of engines (in particular, the American manufacturer of aircraft engines Pratt & Whitney — IF-U) that fail earlier than planned due to warranty obligations. And this leads to the fact that many aircraft, mostly Airbus, are idle for engine repairs. This also affects the lack of aircraft.

The demand is really high, and in this demand we, as a Ukrainian company, should be adequately represented. And when they compare you, a Ukrainian company what has a war at home, with something else, stable, big, which is doing well, it is very difficult to make a decision, in particular, in terms of risk management, to choose you.

- And so, now in the fleet of Maltese airline, only those planes with which you started from the day of establishment?

- The new ones have not yet arrived, but there are negotiations at various stages. And we expect to sign contracts and receive aircraft in the near future. When there is clarity with the signing of these agreements, then we will be able to plan a calendar for ourselves.

- It was reported that at the meeting of the Intergovernmental Ukrainian-Lithuanian Commission on Trade, Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation under the chairmanship of the Deputy Prime Minister for the Reconstruction of Ukraine, the Minister of Community Development, Territories and Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov and the Minister of Economy and Innovation of the Republic of Lithuania Aushrine Armonaite, the Lithuanian side offered Ukrainian airlines to consider the issue of starting operations in Lithuania and participating in national tenders for strategic directions. Are you interested in this?

- First of all, I can only thank Lithuania for this opportunity. Everyone should take an example from them. And if there is such a shortage of planes in the EU, then they could give us some relief. Not only SkyUp, but Ukrainian carriers in general should be given concessions in order to support the aviation industry as a whole, to be staffed, to maintain all the necessary licenses.

As for Lithuania's invitation itself, we are considering it with interest, we are taking part in it. Let's see what will come of it.

- Have you already applied for these competitions?

- The team is doing it. 

- And what about Poland, does it offer, does it come up with such proposals?

- It is much more difficult with Poland. Last year, we had certain exceptions, which we were able to get due to the great support of our State Aviation Service, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Infrastructure.

With their great support, we were able to obtain an exemption for SkyUp: we were allowed to operate charter flights. And we also received an exception in Poland, but only for one airport, Rzeszów, the closest airport to Ukraine, and only on the condition that we will conduct sales on the territory of Ukraine and our passengers will be only Ukrainians.

- Are Poles so afraid of competition?

- I cannot answer exactly what they are afraid of. There are countries in which we could not get any concessions at all. Politically something is declared but actually it works a little differently. Therefore, we should develop a European carrier not to have these restrictions. To be able to fly and support ourselves, to grow, to continue to pay taxes in Ukraine, to continue to hire staff in Ukraine and to be able to be the first to return to Ukraine as soon as possible.

- On the terms of ACMI, you cooperate in the EU with WizzAir, SmartWings, Freebird Airlines, Tailwind Airlines, Corendon Airlines. With which companies have already signed agreements for the low winter season, how does this process proceed? Before that, in one of the interviews, you pointed out that the winter months in Europe are the low season and it is necessary to load the planes already in the fall. Who will you fly with in winter?

- Almost the entire fleet is already engaged for the next winter season. I emphasize, almost, because we are still in negotiations. The winter season starts from November. Not all (from the fleet of the airline — IF-U) will be arranged in Europe, so we received American and Canadian certificates, and still want to start our work there.

- Will it take part of the fleet?

- Yes, but for the winter. There are also eastern countries that are interested, and we are also interested in them, we are in negotiations. We try to choose such projects for ourselves, which will make us more confident, not only today, but also tomorrow, and in the future.

Our company is focused on stabilization and maximum earnings. Five years ago (since the foundation of the company — IF-U), we started from scratch, but it's been a year and a half since we found ourselves at minus two, if not minus five (due to a full-scale invasion — IF-U). When you fly, you have a lot of obligations to partners, to passengers, and at some point in time you stopped. Everyone else continues to fly, but you stopped.

The obligations did not stop, tickets were, for example, bought not only for today, but also for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, and at one point it all turned out to be frozen.

- Has the company fully settled with the passengers for the canceled flights?

- Unfortunately, no, not completely, but we continue to return funds. 

- What is the remaining amount to pay out?

- We return funds every day. We have already paid in refunds more than UAH 16 million, despite the fact that last year we worked much less than this year. Unfortunately, the number of our planes has decreased. But we are responsible to all partners, to passengers, to ourselves,and to the country. These are our people, our passengers, and we will refund everyone their money. Unfortunately, we cannot process all returns at once. It's a process.

- Since the summer, conversations have become louder and louder that EASA may give us permission to at least partially open the sky, to create a flight zone modeled after Israel. Do you share the optimism regarding the resumption of air flights to/from a number of Ukrainian airports by the end of 2023?

- Do you remember, on April 4 this year, a plane left Boryspil (to Iasi — IF-U)?

- Of course, on that day I called you personally, and to the press service of SkyUp, from 8 in the morning, because it was the biggest sensation that your last plane, which was stuck due to a full-scale invasion at Boryspil airport, left it, despite the fact that the sky is for everyone remained closed…

- It was very cool. I agree. It was as much of a shock to most of our team as it was to you. We (top management — IF-U) watched it on Flightradar24 and took a direct part in it. The same with the opening of the sky for Lviv and Boryspil. God willing it will happen, we will be there.

- Well, are these real conversations now? It was even reported that a specialist from Israel in this matter came to Ukraine recently…

- There have been conversations since the first day of the war about how to do it. And tomorrow there will be talks. However, this process is multi-stage and difficult to implement. I will not dwell on this issue in more detail.

- In the summer, the visit of Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary to Ukraine was the biggest sensation. Did I understand correctly, after analyzing what Ryanair said, that at the same time as security issues, an equally serious discussion continues around the rates of airport fees? Do I understand correctly that considering the situation and the predicted traffic, which will not be large at first, the airlines are raising the issue of discounts and those who will be the first will probably get them?

- This is the populism of Ryanair. Very ignorant people go by everything he (Michael O'Leary — IF-U) says. See what he said. First, there will be 30 planes in Ukraine. Yes, it's great, it's true. Ukraine needs even more. But none of them will be in Ukraine. He says so in his interview. We have planes in Poland, in Warsaw, in Paris, in Berlin.

Verbatim in an interview with the Interfax-Ukraine agency, Michael O'Leary said the following: "we plan to place planes, pilots, flight attendants, spare parts in Boryspil, Lviv, and Odesa within 12 months. We could have 10 planes in Kyiv, maybe five planes in Lviv, and maybe one or two planes in Odesa, and double their number over the next two to four years as traffic increases"…

We now also have airplanes wherever we operate. What does having planes somewhere mean? When they arrived, were they cleaned, refueled and flew on? Well, they were placed for half an hour to an hour. And three times a day they will fly and stay placed like that. They will take their model, look at the revenue. He says it all directly. They will cancel all the flights that are the most unprofitable. And they will be a vacuum cleaner. They will fly to and from Ukraine. No tax will be paid in Ukraine on this, because they are not a Ukrainian airline, they are an Irish airline. It's an Ireland where they will pay.

This is the first. That is, realistically there will not be a single plane in Ukraine. Second. He says about $3 billion investment in Ukraine. No, not to Ukraine, but to Ryanair. The airline owns these investments in order to perform these operations. Today in Ukraine, tomorrow in Paris, the day after tomorrow somewhere else.

And the third thing he says. But all this is possible under two conditions. The first is EASA's decision on safety and, of course, safety in spite of everything. And secondly, airports should provide a certain discount. I know what figure Ryanair wanted and Michael O'Leary voiced it (during the visit — IF-U).

- Will you name it for us? In an interview, he made it clear that he expects airport fees to be on a par with Polish airports…

- I will tell you that it is about 20-fold, or even more, cheaper than current figure. Imagine the scale.

We, as a Ukrainian airline, cannot allow ourselves to ask Ukraine at a time when the country is at war, when the whole world will donate it, when we live, or rather exist because of the price of life given by our soldiers, to ask about such discounts We will not ask for any discount at all. We believe that this is not even impractical, it is impossible.

We have to pay as much as it was before the war so that Ukraine could maintain the infrastructure, continue the struggle, develop if the war ends by then.

- Look, if EASA says tomorrow you can fly from Lviv. Will SkyUp be at the airport with its planes the next day?

- If it is possible, 100%. 

- I cannot ignore a question that is probably not very pleasant to discuss. Instead, can you tell in more detail about the incident in Sudan, as a result of which, as it is claimed, one of the company's planes completely burned down? Is it really so? Has the company received compensation for the lost aircraft and what is the fate of the second aircraft? Were the planes in Sudan insured and will the losses be compensated?

- We started operations in Sudan on January 1, 2022. It is important to understand: in any country, any flights are impossible without regulation. And what is no less important to understand is that the regulation is not only inside the country, it is from outside, from above. Safety is regulated through IATA (International Air Transport Association). This organization conducts constant audits, both of the state services of different countries, and of airports, and aviation space in general. There is also a parallel business, and in this business there is insurance. No flight can take place unless it is insured. The airline, the planes, it's all insured. There should be at least three insurance coverages, this is basic CASCO, third party insurance, and passenger and baggage insurance.

If there are risks, insurance companies limit them. In Ukraine, for example, on February 12, 2022, we received a warning from insurance companies that the insurance coverage could be withdrawn within 48 hours. And before that, there was a warning that the insurance coverage could be revoked in seven days. There was nothing like that in Sudan. It was a standard seven days. In early April, there was a major audit by IATA and South African Airways (SAA) of Khartoum International Airport. That is, the insurance company did not require additional funds, no additional premium was required. Nothing. All risks are assessed not only by the airline, but by many institutions and in the case of Sudan, for all these institutions, the risks were acceptable.

And what happened, unfortunately, happened. Yes, we lost two planes. But thanks to God, thanks to the team, thanks to the coordinated work with the Defence Intelligence, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the embassy, with the honorary consul, with everyone, we got our people out. During this terrible period, we ... lost a lot of weight. We didn't sleep much, we worked 24/7, but we saved everyone and this is the biggest victory that could have been in this situation. Airplanes are iron, and people are people. All are alive and well, thank God!

- Was the insurance paid in full for these two lost planes?

- For one it has already been paid in full. On the second, the process is being completed, it will also be paid.

- Maintenance stations: how many do you currently have and what are your plans for the further development of the direction?

- We have line maintenance stations in Tallinn (Estonia), Hurghada (Egypt). Now we are starting the process for Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt). Where else will they be? Where we need it.

When we open a maintenance station, we look at the situation at this particular station, at a particular airport. What can we do there on our own, what can we do with the help of partners, do we need to do something on our own, or our partners' services are enough for us? We look at the price offers, see what our volumes are and choose the best combination for ourselves. That is, we are hybrids here as well.

- What is the situation in the USA and Canada?

- The situation is the same: do we need it or not. We have Sky-Stream, a Ukrainian maintenance organization. In order to work abroad, we have to certify it both in Ukraine and in the country of operation. In the same way, we will look at Canada and America: what we can do on our own, what we can't do, whether we need it, whether we have the capacity, strength, and opportunity for it. Now I can't give a specific answer, we will definitely look at it and choose the best way for us.

- Your company won the tender for the transportation of the first persons of our country. Can you tell in more detail about the work in this direction? What features, differences, requirements does the direction dictate and how does it differ from the routine work of transporting ordinary passengers?

- I will tell you that transporting passengers is much easier than transporting the first persons.

- Why?

- Because when you transport passengers, you are an airline, you ensure it, you have a schedule and you follow it. Your norms, rules, procedures work. When you transport the first persons, it is not a matter of the persons, but of the organization of such flights in general. You are a performer. Do you understand? And you have to adapt, meet all these different requirements. Security, service, etc. And it often happens that it is not the case that we have planned everything in a month, but today and tomorrow we have to provide everything. Including due to certain restrictions on the dissemination of information in advance. Of course, there is a war in the country. And this imposes its own difficulties. This is a non-standard work for us. Yes, this is a job we can do, we do. It was a transparent tender, we won it. All conditions are publicly available. There is an appeal, there is an evaluation of the possibilities inside. And if it is possible for us, we do it. If we can't do it, we don't do it.

- And what planes are used? Can't an entire Boeing fly for one person?

- We only have the existing fleet, there is no other, there is nothing hidden: all planes are Boeing 737. If there are 189 in the plane, then all these seats fly. We do not replace them, we do not install beds, we do not hang a plasma tv. These are all the same planes, with the same economy class, only with fewer passengers.

- Are you satisfied with this cooperation?

- It's not about satisfaction, it's about something else... We are proud of what we do. This is the story. We are proud that our Prime Minister can fly in and point to the Ukrainian flag and to the fighter jet that we placed next to this Ukrainian flag. We are proud of it. It drives us when we understand that together with the state we are touching this history somewhere. Therefore, yes, we will continue with pleasure.

- Historically, the company was associated with the Ukrainian tourist market. This summer, flows on the border showed that it is slowly recovering. Was the company involved in this process? How do you assess the prospects?

- Tourism for us is... since our birth. We were born through tourism, where our founder was the tour operator Join UP! We were a tour operator first small, then large, then the largest. Then we drove the entire Ukrainian tourist market, developed it, constantly opened new destinations. And all this led us to the fact that we created an airline. At first, it was supposed to provide only the needs of the tour operator, but very quickly we realized that this was not enough. And it is much more interesting to fully develop the company, to have both charter flights, tourist routes, and regular flights, including intra-Ukrainian transportation.

Tourism is what we have and continue to do. In one and a half year, since the start of the full-scale war, Join UP! managed to open in six countries and to close in one. They opened in three Baltic countries, as well as in Poland, Romania, and Kazakhstan. Closed in Belarus. Since the first days of the full-scale war, the company has completely ceased operations in this country. A tour operator cannot work there as long as there is current political regime there. Despite any possible profits, it is generally unacceptable absolutely.

Join UP! will continue its development. Yes, Ukrainians, of whom there are many now abroad, help in all these markets. It really helps. You need to mentally reboot. Mothers with children go on vacation, and we are glad that we can help them.

- Are there more mothers who reboot with the help of a vacation lately? Compared to 2022, for example?

- Yes, in 2023, there are more of them. 

- Can we talk about the preliminary results of SkyUp's work in 2023? In 2022, as reported, the airline carried 2.3 times less passengers than in 2021 — 1.08 million. What will the situation be in 2023? What are your expectations and what tasks do you set for yourself in 2024?

- I set a lot of tasks. Financial indicators are better than last year, that's for sure. If we compare the summer season of last year and this year, we have the following results: for the period from 04.1.22 to 09.25.22, 4,948 flights were made, 736,928 passengers were transported; for the same period this year, 6,772 flights and 995,422 passengers were transported. That is, we see an increase in operational activity by 36% in the summer season of this year.

The amount of taxes paid in Ukraine also increased significantly. Thus, since the full-scale invasion, as of September, we as a company have paid over UAH 215 million. We hope that the rest of the six months will also be pleasant for us. We do everything for this. We believe that 2024 will be, no, we are sure that 2024 will be even better for us.

- Did the passenger traffic in 2023 exceed 2021?

- No, the indicator of 2021 has not yet been surpassed. 

- Will it happen in 2024?

- We had more planes in 2021. But, with God's help, we will attract all that we plan to attract and see what will come of it. I would like to note that when we work under ACMI contracts, accordingly, we do not count our own passengers, but customers and the volume of services provided for them. So it is difficult to predict here.

- What target indicators do you plan to achieve in 2024?

- When a full-scale war began, first it was necessary to save people, then it was necessary to save business, then it was necessary to restore operational activities. That is, first you looked for how to survive, then you survived, then there was a stabilization stage, we have already stabilized. And now the stage of growth.

The major performance indicator for 2024 is to enter the European market of regular transportation and to increase the operations of our European airline. These are the two targets I set for myself from an operational point of view. In terms of business growth, the target is to increase the fleet.

- To what extent?

- Let's say, as much as possible. It is not up to us now. We are able to double it. But will the market allow us to do this? We can't answer now because there is really a story where you have to assure everyone that despite the fact that you have a war at home, you are stable, you have indicators, you can be trusted, there will be no problems with you tomorrow and you need this plane more than others.

- When considering the target indicators for 2024, do you consider that in one scenario, you could have flights from Ukraine, and in the second scenario, the sky over our country remains closed. Do you consider this?

- It doesn't really matter what the scenario will be. As soon as Ukraine allows us to return, we will be the first to do so.

- During one of the interviews, when you answered a question about what could be done to facilitate the work of a Ukrainian airline in the EU, you said that the Ukrainian airline could be given the opportunity to conduct its own operations. Even if they were limited by time frames, you said, but it would be real additional help from Europe to Ukraine. Can you explain in more detail what you mean by what time frame?

- I meant, until the sky of Ukraine opens. We don't need foreign markets. As soon as the sky is open, as soon as Ukraine says, please, it is safe to fly, only until that moment such special opportunities are needed. We need to be in the sky. We are an airline. We need to fly, we need to grow, we need to maintain personnel licenses. We need to support our aviation industry in general. And we need to return home tomorrow not to ruin, but to a capable system.

- That is, as soon as Ukraine opens up, you will begin to slowly curtail this international direction, which you are so actively developing now?

- Absolutely not. We will continue to develop in Europe, but we will return home.

- In Europe, in the USA, also in Canada, if I understand correctly?

- Where it will be possible to operate, where it will be profitable, but, first of all, the priority will be Ukraine, when it is possible. It is still a priority. We pay taxes at home, in Ukraine.