Facing war, Ukrainian carrier SkyUp targets European market for survival

In the face of adversity, Ukrainian air carrier SkyUp has demonstrated remarkable resilience. The war with Russia has forced the closure of civilian airspace in Ukraine for over two years. Despite these challenging circumstances, SkyUp has managed to not only survive but also thrive by strategically building up its business in Europe.


SkyUp, which started in 2018, quickly became Ukraine's fastest-growing airline, flying a record of more than 2.57 million passengers to over 50 destinations in 2021. However, the full-scale invasion by Russia in February 2022 brought a complete halt to commercial flights in and out of Ukraine. This sudden stop in revenues forced SkyUp to completely rebuild its business model. Under the leadership of CEO Dmytro Seroukhov, SkyUp pivoted its business model from charter and regular flights to focusing on supplying its aircraft, crews, maintenance, and insurance to foreign operators. This model, known in the industry as ACMI (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance, and Insurance), has proven to be a successful strategy.

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In 2022, SkyUp had a significant amount of obligations but a complete stop in revenues. Despite this, the airline, which has 10 planes and about 1,200 staff, continued to develop the ACMI model. By 2023, ACMI accounted for about 70% of SkyUp's revenue, making it one of the 20 biggest such operators in Europe. They transported 1.5 million passengers in 2023, up from 1 million in 2022. The war has left airlines with few options, and some, including Ukrainian International Airlines (UIA), the national flag carrier that was once the country's biggest airline, have collapsed. However, SkyUp was luckier than other carriers as most of its planes were abroad when the war started. Only one plane was stranded in Kyiv's Boryspil airport, and the company managed to retrieve it in April 2023. This was a "special operation" involving hundreds of people, several Ukrainian ministries, the army, and military intelligence.


The transport sector in Ukraine has taken $3.1 billion in damage as of June 2023, with 19 airports and civilian airfields damaged. Despite these challenges, SkyUp has managed to build up its business in Europe and become Ukraine's largest air carrier during the war. This story of resilience and strategic adaptation serves as a beacon of hope in these challenging times. SkyUp's success demonstrates that even in the face of adversity, it is possible to not only survive but also thrive.

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