Editor’s Note: The following is a July 11 Facebook post by Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan, who explains his side of the story involving Ryanair, the low-cost Irish airlines that on July 10 cancelled plans to enter the Ukrainian market in October after failing to come to an agreement with Kyiv Boryspil International Airport.
There’s been a lot of emotional discussion around Ryanair’s decision, but very little deep understanding of the situation.
Let me explain.
1. Negotiations with Ryanair lasted over five years. When Viktor Yanukovych was president (2010-2014), there was no real discussion of Ryanair’s entry. The only things discussed were far-off plans.
2. We were able to convince Ryanair that Ukraine has changed, that no one will be looking for kickbacks and that large international businesses can feel comfortable here – that they can work honestly. Come on over, give it a chance.
3. Why not Zhulyany? If I tell you that the Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko was shocked to hear that Zhulyany refused Ryanair and that he found out about this from me, would you be surprised ?! From the reasons of the refusal to the real owners of the airport, they’re not all that different when it comes to the factors that influenced the behavior of Kyiv Boryspil International Airport.
4. Regional airports: half of them don’t have a proper runway (like Odesa), half don’t have a proper terminal (Gostomel). And why should the passengers not fly from Kyiv, if Boryspil has two completely empty terminals! I repeat: the airport is government-owned, the terminals were built with taxpayer funds. These terminals aren’t working while the airport spends Hr 250 million per year on maintaining each of them. According to Pavlo Ryabikin, one terminal is used for various cultural events – expos and whatnot. So you can have galas there, but not passengers? Isn’t that a rather expensive party venue?
5. Regarding Ryanair’s demands. No top-level, world-scale business has any intention of doing charity work in Ukraine. Businesses make money. That’s what they are for. The reason why Ryanair is the largest and cheapest airline in Europe is its ability to fight for optimal conditions. Boryspil had no right to make them public, for starters. The leak of this information was done on purpose, to get Ryanair to leave and never look back. Second: Ryanair has a base agreement and additional agreements. The additional agreements held the lion’s share of the published demands, and these were still open to negotiation. Lviv signed the base agreement, everyone left the table happy. This is how negotiations work: each side, basically, writes three demands that it won’t bend on and seven that it can get rid of during the negotiations. Third: if there are no cheap rates, there are no cheap tickets. The airport will make more money than it currently is thanks to an increased volume of passengers and a larger portion of non-aviation profits.
6. Boryspil could have signed the base agreement without risking the airport at all. And it would have been a start.
7. Regarding the publicity around the process. Ryanair’s entry into Ukraine required a high level of publicity because that was the only way we could have gotten them here. Without that, Ukraine International Airlines and other players would have simply prevented Ryanair from even getting close to Ukraine. Even the pressure on Boryspil was public – an official press release – and it helped people see and understand who’s on what side.
8. I’m convinced that Ryanair can and should be in Ukraine. The issue is that a single minister can’t make it happen. If there is a government in Ukraine, then it better start behaving like one. It’s completely ridiculous to have the head of Boryspil airport decide where Ukrainians can and can’t fly.
9. I am calling for Ryabikin’s resignation.
10. I’m not overly attached to my position. But I also have no intention of leaving. You need to leave when you feel shame for not doing something. I can honestly say that when it comes to this situation, I did all I could. I stopped short of taking Ryabikin’s hand and forcing him on a plane to Belfast so that he can negotiate with Ryanair. Show me one other minister that continues fighting despite the risks involved.
11. And finally, Ryanair is like a big fish that likes its clear water. If Ryanair comes, so will other world-class giants. If it won’t, then we have to be honest with ourselves and accept that we live in a swamp that you can splash in but can’t live in. And realize that, like with any other swamp, we will be avoided at all costs.
12. Just now, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman held a meeting in which he called for the negotiations to be renewed and promised to talk to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine for their opinion on the negotiations and the reason for their termination. I am personally ready to testify on the pressure that a private company exerted on public servants and the promised repercussions should Ryanair ever enter into Ukraine.