The government of Ukraine plans to invest up to US$200 million in a package of measures aimed at the reforming of the national industry of ground handling and bringing them up to Western standards, writes Eugene Gerden
Andriy Pyvovarsky, the minister of state agency Ukraine Infrastructure, responsible for ground handling industry development, is clear: reform is an acute need. The current situation in the Ukrainian ground handling industry remains complex, mainly from the continuing economic crisis in the country.The recent decision of the Ukrainian government to close its domestic airspace to Russian airlines has resulted in serious losses for Ukrainian ground handling providers, the majority of which specialise in the provision of ground handling services to Russian companies.
According to Pyvovarsky, at the heart of the reform is the ending of the monopoly in ground handling activities at Ukrainian airports and the creation of increased competition in the industry.
The majority of ground handling services in Ukraine have been provided by airports themselves or the companies affiliated with them. This resulted in the setting of ‘overstated’ tariffs for the services and the implementation of discriminatory measures in regard to airlines.
However there is a possibility that such a situation will change in the near future as the Ukrainian government plans to restrict the current domination of monopolies in this field.
In addition to this, reforms will also involve more active adoption of Western standards in the provision of ground handling services. This will be aided by the attraction of Western experts.
As part of these plans, a delegation from London’s Heathrow Airport recently visited Ukraine with the aim to share with some local ground handling providers several new methods of aircraft ground handling. According to John Hamshare, Heathrow airside policy and oversight manager, during its visit the delegation shared de-icing best practices, which could be applied to Ukrainian airports.
It is planned that part of the funds will be allocated for the modernisation and further development of IT infrastructure at Ukrainian airports, which should ensure the provision of high-quality regular services in the field of ground handling.
Due to the current financial crisis in Ukraine, some local airports have recently announced plans to move towards outsourcing ground handling services to private operators. For example, such plans have been recently announced by Kiev’s Borispol, the largest airport in Ukraine in terms of passenger traffic. According to state plans, implementation of the reform should be finally completed by the end of 2017.
In the meantime, the latest state plans have already been welcomed by some leading Ukrainian experts in the field of aviation. According to Yuriy Solonchuk, director of Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), the flag carrier and the largest airline of Ukraine, all Ukrainian airports with passenger traffic of not less than 2 million per year should provide a base for at least three companies specialising in the provision of services in the field of ground handling. This should create conditions for increased levels of competition in the industry.
Sergei Kaduchenko, a former director of the department of development of new markets for UIA, and one of the leading Ukrainian experts in the field of ground handling, comments: “Inflated prices currently remain the main problem of the Ukrainian market of ground handling services. At present cleaning even of a small aircraft with a vacuum cleaner may cost about $200 and prices continue to grow. Each Ukrainian airport currently has its own monopoly in the field of ground handling.”
Implementation of the reform should help to partially solve these problems; however, much will depend on how the economic situation in Ukraine develops, he says.