Evgeny, does the quality of service in Boryspil airport meet modern international standards?
I can assure you that Boryspil airport meets the highest standards of quality of passenger service now. This, in particular, is confirmed by the survey rated among Eastern European passengers and conducted by Skytrax, well-known British agency. We are already in the top three, but we do not intend to stop there.
The airport provides all the basic services for the passengers. We offer dining options in different price ranges, run a pharmacy and Duty free shops, our terminals are equipped with comfortable places to rest. There are some additional services in a waiting area like three playgrounds for kids, one of them is with the carousel; as well as rooms for families with children. We have such simple but important items of daily use, like charging devices for gadgets. There is very good Wi-Fi; we even turned off the ads in the system while connecting to the internet to make it more convenient for the passengers.
We have created a robust security system. Due to the fact that there is "yellow" level of terrorist threat in the airport, the check of passengers and their baggage is carried out at the entrance to the terminal where the metal detectors are installed. This makes it possible to minimize potential threats.
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What priorities do you have as the head of the airport?
When I started my target was to change the company’s turnarounds, as in 2014 it showed significant losses in the amount of UAH 127 million. Now this period is behind us and in the end of 2015 we had a net profit of about UAH 860 million. Now our main goal is to keep pace with the market and to provide a qualitative service in order to increase the number of passengers. In the first half of 2016 passengers’ traffic increased by 14%, while the rate of growth doubled in comparison with the same period in 2015.
The airport is developing and this requires us to perform so many tasks. We are working on the technological changes that are needed to provide airlines with a minimum time of docking and for speeding up the aircrafts’ services at the airport. We must create conditions that will let the passengers to pass quickly the formalities at the airport. This year we implemented the process that resulted in more than 20% acceleration of check-in and passport control. And in the field of aviation security we reduced waiting time for procedures by more than 30%. And this is not the limit, we continue process optimization.
There are a lot of expectations about low-cost companies coming to Ukraine. When, do you think, can this happen?
Everyone wants the flights to be cheap. This is the standard human desire. Now there is a basic prerequisite in Ukraine in order to develop the country low-cost transportation. However, there is some kind of idealized perception of this kind of transportation. Miracles do not happen and we should pay for everything. To make it possible for some passengers to fly to Europe for EUR 45 some passengers should pay EUR 90 for the ticket on the same aircraft as well as some others will have to buy a ticket at EUR 120. The flight filling should be at least 94%.
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There should be a critical mass of passengers who fly at least once a week there and back in Ukraine. Then there is the traffic on the basis of which you can build a successful marketing ticketing technology. Hence the next question is the purchasing power of the population and the freedom of movement (visa-free zone).
The interest of the authorities, especially the local ones, is also an important condition for the arrival of low-cost companies to our country. Low-costs need cheap but at the same time safe airport infrastructure. This combination is also out of science fiction. it can be cheaper for airlines only if someone will pay for it - whoever is interested in it. Low-cost transportation can become an anchor business in the region which will begin to develop tourism, restaurant and hotel business, road construction, small businesses, i.e., all this will ultimately bring a lot of money to the region's economy. But this region has to decide whether it is ready for this. When people talk about the fact that the open sky provides cheap flights, it is not true. Yes, it is important to tell the whole world that we are open to international airlines but they are engaged in a complex, systemic, pre-planned and financially capacious business. And the sooner we liberalize our policies, the sooner we create economic conditions, the more stable the country's economy will be, the better; and, in the long run, we will be more attractive to the world's airlines.
When will the internal air transportation in Ukraine become more accessible to a wide range of people?
There is another factor influencing the situation in addition to purchasing power of the population. Airlines operate in market conditions while railroad fulfills a kind of social function. So it is difficult to compete for these two approaches. Now the price of train tickets is too low in comparison with flight. It turns out that you can overcome the same distance for UAH 2000 by plane or for UAH 200 by train. A tenfold difference is significant for the population. But I know that the situation will change in the future.
Within the last few years Boryspil Airport became also a venue for various cultural activities. Will you pay attention to this field in the future?
I think it is very promising field for our airport, although it is more of a hobby rather than a service. In 2015 we have chosen this kind of activity to add Ukrainian authenticity to our airport. We plan to hold a variety of exhibitions, events, musical concerts. On March the 8th, 2016 there was a photo exhibition of women from around the world. Together with "Artania" art fund we conducted several major exhibitions, like, for example, the exhibition of 50 unique works of Mariya Prymachenko. This collection has gone abroad after that and will return to Ukraine not so soon.
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So we gave our guests an exclusive opportunity to see these 50 works from private collections. We held an exhibition of Ukrainian artist Victor Gontarev, the fundamentalist who’d trained a whole galaxy of Ukrainian artists. By the second anniversary of the Revolution of Dignity we have presented the best photos from various news agencies, photographers, artists, dedicated to the historical events.
These exhibitions and events allow Ukrainians to fly from the airport with a sense of pride for their nation and to take away a particle of Ukrainian art. The foreigners, arriving to our country, can have a better understanding of the history and culture of Ukraine.
How do you see Boryspil airport in the future?
Not long ago, the Ministry of Infrastructure has approved a 4-year plan of strategic development of the airport formulated by our team. It reflects our vision of the airport by 2019. We forecast that passengers’ traffic will double to around 15 million passengers. Terminal D will be much greater than it is now as a result of the planned reconstruction. I hope that all the world's airlines will be presented over here and passengers will be able to fly cheaper and more often.
What would you wish a foreigner who comes to Ukraine for the first time?
I would wish him/her to love Ukraine. It is beautiful, rich land where smart and kind people live. Definitely it is worth knowing this country; I wish them to get a lot of pleasure from staying here.
Interviewed by Anna Vishtak