Low-cost airline Ryanair plans aggressive expansion in Ukraine if the country joins the deregulated European Union's open-skies aviation market in the coming months, Group CEO Michael O'Leary said Thursday.
O 'Leary, whose airline is the largest low-cost carrier in Europe and a major investor in neighboring Poland, said he expects the Ukrainian government to join the open skies before the end of the year.
"The only market I would like to point out is Ukraine ... I think we will become a major investor in Ukraine when they join the European Open Skies," O 'Leary said in an address to investors after the annual general meeting of the company.
Ryanair launched its first flights to Ukraine in 2018 after the government managed to overcome the resistance of local businessmen and officials who tried to prevent him from entering the country.
O 'Leary said Ryanair currently operates at five Ukrainian airports on a bilateral basis, but there are up to 12 suitable airports in the country.
According to the head of the airline, the main income will be provided by migrant workers, who, according to him, currently pay an average of about 40 euros per flight. Earlier, the airline said it also sees potential in the country's domestic market.
“I think this will be a model that we will aggressively move towards,” said O 'Leary.
Low-cost carriers had a transformative impact on the economies of many Central and Eastern European countries in the early 2000s, opening up new flows of migrants and tourists to Western Europe.
Russia and several of its former Soviet neighbors have opted for more protectionist aviation policies.