Ukrainian airline switches to cargo to weather COVID crisis
Some positive news for a change.
Reuters : May 27, 2020
KIEV, May 27 (Reuters) – For the pilots, the customer smiles are sadly lacking, but Ukrainian low-cost airline SkyUp says it is finding strength in a crisis after converting most of its planes to carry cargo to keep its fleet in the skies.
Eight of its eleven orange-and-white 737-800 and 900 Boeing planes have had seats removed and nets placed in between the remaining rows to carry freight. Some smaller items are squeezed in the overhead hand luggage compartments.
The privately-owned airline, which launched two years ago, delivered its first cargo shipment in April when it brought medical supplies to Ukraine from China.
It has since done around 250 cargo flights and won contracts in countries such as Britain, France and Germany.
The impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on the airline industry has prompted several carriers to seek state aid.
But SkyUp says it has kept most of its staff, who work either from home or in the office to handle the cargo operations.
“This virus gave us new strength and pushed us to look for new areas in business,” SkyUp Director General Yevhen Khainatsky told Reuters.
“Being a passenger airline, we never dreamt of doing cargo shipments. The crisis forced us to do it. That is why during crisis times, our airline is adapting and we are quickly shifting from one business to another.”
For pilot Oleh Popovych, carrying freight has some advantages: he does not have to take slightly longer routes to circumvent turbulence or thunderstorms that make passengers uncomfortable. But he looks forward to having passengers back.
“I would like to see people smiling, I would like to meet them,” he told Reuters from the cockpit of his plane.
“You know, sometimes a mother stops me while I am walking across the airport and asks if she can take a photograph of her kid with me.”
(Writing by Matthias Williams; editing by Barbara Lewis)