SkyUp Airlines (PQ, Kyiv Boryspil) has lost USD30 million due to restrictions and a lack of demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline admitted to the Ukrinform news agency.

Privately-owned SkyUp operates two B737-700s, six B737-800s, and three B737-900(ER)s, predominantly on international leisure-heavy routes. It operates both charter flights on behalf of tour operators and its own scheduled flights. However, with borders closed on one, the other, or both ends, the airline is still struggling to restore capacity.

SkyUp restarted domestic operations on June 26 and has been slowly ramping up its international schedule as well, although many of its previously planned routes, including to Italy, Armenia, Georgia, and Greece, have had to be cancelled due to ongoing restrictions.

However, the airline underlined that given the unpredictability of the international market and reduced demand, it would continue to focus on the domestic market much more in the coming months than it used to. It recently announced that its flights from Kyiv Boryspil to Odesa and Zaporizhzhia will continue through at least October 24. So-called inter-regional flights bypassing Kyiv, namely Kharkiv-Odesa, Lviv-Kherson, and Lviv-Odesa, will continue through September 16, 2020.

In its new, post-COVID strategy, SkyUp set itself a target to increase its share in the domestic market to 50% by capacity. According to the ch-aviation capacities, it currently has a share of 60.8% by capacity due to the fact that its main rival, Ukraine International Airlines (PS, Kyiv Boryspil), has yet to fully restart its network. Based on current schedule data for the week starting on September 7, SkyUp's share is set to drop to 42.6% in that week (still ahead of UIA) and even further after some of its domestic routes are suspended in the middle of that month.

SkyUp, in particular, hopes to establish itself as the leader of "city break" travel within Ukraine, a hitherto underdeveloped market based on short, spontaneously planned leisure travel.

The airline said that despite the challenges, it still plans to add five to seven aircraft by the end of 2022, and launch new bases and routes as its fleet grows.

Editorial Comment: Adjusted the fleet summary to only reflect three B737-900(ER)s as the fourth aircraft has not yet been delivered. - 07.08.2020 - 06:31 UTC