The Government of Ukraine and Airbus have signed a Memorandum of Understanding covering a potential order for six A220s, twelve A320 Family aircraft, and four widebody A330/A350s for the planned new flag carrier, now known to be called Ukrainian National Airlines.

The start-up is set to begin operations by the end of 2022 and has been touted as a way to reduce dependency on Ukraine International Airlines (PS, Kyiv Boryspil), the country's largest carrier owned by US-sanctioned oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky. On November 25, the cabinet adopted the "Action Plan to Prevent the Abuse of Excessive Influence by Persons with Significant Economic and Political Weight in Public Life (Oligarchs)", a flagship initiative of President Volodymyr Zelensky. Among other measures, the plan included a new flag carrier.

On November 8, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's parliament) approved the revision to the 2021 budget, allocating an additional UAH500 million hryvnias (USD18.5 million) in start-up capital for Ukraine National Airlines.

Zelensky first proposed the creation of a new state-owned airline in Ukraine in early 2020. The country has relied on privately-owned carriers since the collapse of Air Ukraine (6U, Kyiv Boryspil) in 2004. While the government remains adamant that Ukraine National Airlines should eventually operate Ukrainian-made aircraft, Zelensky conceded that local manufacturers were not ready for such expansion. The only commercial aircraft manufactured in Ukraine is the An-148-100.

The choice of the European manufacturer as the fleet supplier is not surprising as the government had appointed French consultancy Aerog├ęstion and has closely cooperated with the French state in recent months.

The MOU was signed during the ongoing Big Construction: Aviation and Tourism Forum. The parties did not publicly disclose the delivery timeline or any further details concerning the tentative order. They said Ukraine National Airlines would either buy or lease the aircraft. Airbus said that once they are delivered, it could start cooperating with the Ukrainian aerospace industry, although it did not clarify what that would entail.

Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said that the government would be careful with the development of the new carrier adding that the authorities are confident it will turn profitable within five years of launching.

Zelensky added that on top of creating the new flag carrier, the government's strategy also envisions the expansion of Kyiv Boryspil to become "the most powerful Eastern European air hub". Ukraine also plans to build two new airports, one in the eastern part of the country and one in Zakarpattia in the southwest. However, Zelensky did not specify any exact locations for these gateways.