With Bangkok in the bag and an eye on New York and Toronto, carrier looks to become dominant long-haul international airline
ot only did the flight mark the company’s inaugural trip to Bangkok, it was the first trip made by the airline’s newly acquired Boeing 767‑300ER aircraft.
Acquisition of the Boeing 767 is part of an aggressive marketing plan that the airline hopes will eventually position it as the nation’s dominant long‑haul international airline. Aerosvit began serving Dubai last September, and plans to acquire an additional 767 in April 2003, enabling the carrier to add routes to New York, Seoul, Toronto and Delhi.
Aerosvit acquired the Boeing 767 aircraft on a long‑term lease from Boeing Capital, the finance arm of the U.S.‑based aircraft manufacturer. The twin‑engine wide‑body had previously been used by SAS.
The new addition to Aerosvit’s fleet is the largest‑capacity Boeing jet operated by any Ukrainian airline. The company also operates six other Boeing aircraft: a 737‑200, a 737‑300, and four 737‑500s.
Aerosvit sent several of its pilots to the United States for six weeks to become certified to fly the 767.
“We really did not have any problem training on the 767 flight simulator because we have eight years of experience flying Boeing 737s for Aerosvit,” said Capt. Ihor Hlushko, a senior company flight instructor.
Hlushko piloted the 767 to Kyiv from Los Angeles, where the plane’s interior was refit to Aerosvit’s specifications. Hlushko said that he was impressed with the aircraft’s size, admitting that initially he had been “ a little scared” by the aircraft, which holds about twice the number of passengers as a 737.
“It’s all right now, though,” Hlushko said. “This is a very safe plane with triple‑redundant systems: an autopilot, an inertial control system and a hydraulic control system.”
There’s more to expanding service than simply leasing a plane, Aerosvit General Director Hryhory Hurtovy said. The acquisition of the aircraft represents an expansion that has resulted in the creation of 242 new jobs with the airline for pilots, maintenance workers and ground‑service personnel, he said.
Aerosvit’s plan to expand its service is leading to head‑to‑head competition with another Ukrainian carrier, Ukraine International Airlines, at the same time as the two airlines are in merger talks.
Hurtovy said that although Aerosvit would eventually be able to reach its goals alone, a merger would be good for both airlines.
“The merger would make both companies more prosperous,” he said. “I think it’s better to grow as a company together with Ukraine International Airlines.”
Transportation Minister Hryhory Kirpa said that the Boeing planes met the country’s long‑haul requirements. Ukraine is able to produce An‑140 airplanes for its internal needs and plans to launch production of medium‑range An‑74 aircraft next year, but, “It will take a couple of decades before we learn how to produce long‑range aircraft,” Kirpa said.
Craig Jones, vice‑president of sales in the Commonwealth of Independent States for the Boeing Commercial Airplane Co., said that Aerosvit’s addition of a Boeing 767 demonstrated that the airline was growing along with the country and its economy.
“The reason for me being here today is really not about Boeing at all. It’s about the country and about Aerosvit,” Jones said.
The Boeing 767‑300ER cruises at about 800 kilometers per hour and can fly as high as 12,000 feet. Aerosvit has configured the airplane to accommodate 204 coach‑class and 24 business‑class seats. In coach, the airline said that the seat pitch – the distance between seat backs – is between 32 and 34 inches. Seat pitch in business class is 47 inches.
According to the Skytrax survey conducted by airlinequality.com, Aerosvit passengers will have as much or more legroom than passengers on many other long‑haul carriers. The Skytrax survey placed discount European carrier Easyjet seat pitch at 29 inches and KLM at 31 inches in coach.
Aerosvit carries about 30 percent of all passengers transported by Ukrainian airlines. Last year, it carried 316,000 passengers, a 28.4 percent increase over the year before, and rang up a healthy $1.8 million.
According to the State Commission on Securities and the Stock Market, a company called Aerotur owns a 39.64 percent interest in Aerosvit, The Netherlands’ Gilward Investments B.V. owns 37.96 percent and the State Property Fund controls 22.39 percent of the shares.