Wednesday,  October 16, 2019  1:38 am

UIA reflects on first year in Toronto, looks ahead to more growth

UIA reflects on first year in Toronto, looks ahead to more growth
Ira Koliuda, sales manager – Canada, Ukraine International Airlines and Karl Müller, director – Canada, Airlines Pros.
Blake Wolfe

Blake Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor, who joined PAX after nearly 10 years in Canada’s newspaper industry. In addition to PAX, his work has been featured in publications such as the Metroland Media group of newspapers and the Toronto Sun.

It’s been a strong first year in Toronto for Ukraine International Airlines – and there’s still room to grow, as the airline continues to work in partnership with agents and tour operators to develop Eastern Europe product from Canada.

UIA welcomed travel industry representatives to its first anniversary celebration at Toronto Pearson International Airport this week, concluding a first year that was “beyond expectation,” as described by Karl Müller, director – Canada, of AirlinePros, which represents UIA in Canada. The day also included a tour of UIA’s new B777 aircraft, on which the Toronto-Kyiv route will be operated.

Touting UIA’s “accessible price and vast international network,” Müller told PAX that UIA has helped fill a niche for agents and operators across Canada seeking connectivity to destinations in Eastern Europe and beyond.

“We’ve been warmly received by the Ukraine VFR community,” he said. "However, with all of the connectivity beyond Ukraine, in the Middle East and Asia, we’ve seen a progressive booking trend with agents across Canada. We have interline agreements with WestJet and Air Canada, so we have through fares from Western Canada, for example.

“UIA has been opening opportunities to travel agents and tour operators to develop new products. While we knew the Ukrainian community would take interest, we were delighted to see destinations such as Tel Aviv, Warsaw, Tbilisi and Yerevan being booked in greater numbers as time went by. Growth has reached such a point that we’re now using the B777 in Toronto.”

Business class aboard UIA's B777, flying from Toronto to Kyiv

A look at the B777

In a bid to stay competitive with fellow Eastern European carriers (such as LOT Polish Airlines, which recently added the B787-9 Dreamliner to its fleet), UIA has upgraded from the B767 to B777 on its Toronto-Kyiv service, which operates Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.

Features on board the B777 include:

  • Business class with 21 seats in a 2x3x2 configuration which convert to lie-flat beds;
  • Premium economy class with 16 seats in a 2x4xs configuration, reclining up to eight inches;
  • Economy class with 324 seats in a 3x4x3 configuration;
  • In-flight entertainment featuring first-run films and TV shows and games, with programming in English, Russian, Ukrainian and Chinese.

From left: Harold Ho, vice-president, marketing & business development, Royal Scenic; Ellen Melman, director operations & marketing, travel industry, clergy & community liaison – Canada, Israel Ministry of Tourism; Tres Lobo, destination specialist, Dan Tours.

What the tour operators are saying

Several Canadian tour operators on hand for the celebration detailed their partnerships with UIA to PAX.

Harold Ho, vice-president, marketing & business development at Royal Scenic, said that while he has been working with UIA even before the Toronto route was launched, the addition of the Toronto service has boosted Royal Scenic’s Eastern Europe bookings significantly.

“Toronto has a lot of VFR traffic to Ukraine and Eastern Europe, so Royal Scenic has worked with UIA and consolidators to help fill the planes,” Ho told PAX. “We sell air-only and some hotel product in Kyiv, and it’s a great opportunity to help grow the destination.

Yury Manukhov, director – business development, for Canadian Gateway Journeys, told PAX that his company works with UIA in three different capacities: first, as a consolidator selling airfare aboard UIA; as a tour operator, which has incorporated UIA in its Eastern Europe itineraries; and as a partner in its agent FAM trips, showcasing both UIA’s airline product and Ukraine as a destination.

A look at UIA's new B777 aircraft, which flies Toronto-Kyiv three times per week

How agents can work with UIA

According to Müller, travel agents interested in working with UIA can contact AirlinePros to access net fares and start earning commissions on ticket sales.

“UIA has a very flexible policy on commissions,” Müller told PAX, “but instead of opening the commissions to the entire industry, if an agent would like access to net fares commissions, it’s simply a matter of contacting us and we’ll add them to the program. Within 24 hours of contacting us, they’ll be registered in the system and they can start making that extra commission.”

A sampling of UIA's Business class meals

Economy class aboard UIA's B777