© Daria Volkova / Unsplash
Jankovec: “Looking at the longer term, the role of the EU and multilateral financial institutions will be essential in supporting the development of Ukrainian airports.”
© ACI Europe
Airport association ACI Europe has flagged its concerns that there are “daunting challenges” faced by airports in Ukraine and that the costs are mounting due to the continuing war with Russia.
In mid-September, the airport trade body brought Ukrainian airports together with key European institutional and financial stakeholders in Brussels to discuss recovery and redevelopment.
Ukraine has lost all commercial air traffic since February 2022 when Russia invaded the country. Since then, the war has led to enormous infrastructure damage, and Ukrainian airports—some of which were being assessed for PPP investment in 2019—are now striving to recover and maintain their operational capabilities.
In a statement, ACI Europe said: “Repairing damage, maintaining facilities, equipment and related certification are crucial to ensure that Ukraine keeps its critical aviation infrastructure up and running. It is also vital that staff are retained, and that they stay motivated with continuous training. This is a prerequisite for the country to be able to restore its connectivity and facilitate an economic restart when air traffic re-opens.”
There is no timeline for that reopening, and with Ukrainian airports’ financial reserves exhausted urgent financial support is going to be required. Rebuilding damaged airport infrastructure across Ukraine is currently estimated to cost over €200 million while maintaining operational readiness on a yearly basis will need €52.8 million. The total rebuild effort for all infrastructure was estimated by the United Nations to be $100 billion just a few weeks into the war.
Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe, described the Brussels meeting as “an important first step” to address the short- and longer-term challenges faced by Ukrainian airports.
He added: “Airlines such as airBaltic, Ryanair, and Wizz Air have already signaled their readiness to reconnect Ukraine with the rest of Europe as soon as safely possible. But that requires Ukrainian airports not just to rebuild but also to recover and maintain their operational capabilities in full.
“As the war drags on, this is no longer something they can do on their own, and it is urgent that the Ukrainian government now uses part of the financial aid provided by the European Union for that purpose.”
The meeting brought together—for the first time—a large number of organizations. They included Ukrainian airports; high-level representatives from the Ukrainian Ministry for Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development; the Ukrainian Ministry for Finance; the Ukrainian Civil Aviation Authority, UkSTATSE (which handles air navigation services); the European Commission; EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency); Eurocontrol; the European Investment Bank; and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Sergiy Derkach, Deputy Minister for Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development of Ukraine, said: “In response to airspace closures due to the Russian invasion, our top priorities include infrastructure readiness and personnel proficiency. These steps are crucial for a swift resumption of civilian flights. This restoration will have a positive impact on the national economy, accessibility, refugee return, and post-war recovery efforts. We thank our European partners for their invaluable support in this endeavor.”
ACI Europe is expected to call on its 550-strong airport membership to consider offering incentives on user charges for any flights serving Ukraine in order to support the rebuilding of air connectivity. “This will, of course, require flexibility and support from national regulators, where needed,” said the association.
Jankovec said: “Looking at the longer term, the role of the EU and multilateral financial institutions will also be essential in supporting the development of Ukrainian airports in terms of capacity, digitalization, and sustainability along with their effective integration into the EU’s Trans-European Transport Network.”