– The Supreme Court of Ontario ruled to pay the relatives of the six victims of the UIA plane crash about $ 78.7 million plus interest. How can this affect the situation as a whole?
– It is difficult for me to comment on what is happening in Canada, to what extent this decision is final, whether it will be implemented … It’s hard to judge. Lawyers will certainly be able to better assess the situation. We live in the situation in which we live. All passengers and all crew members were insured, the families of the victims received all the first insurance payments. The second payments are part of the assessment process between the insurance company and the families regarding the extent of the damage caused, because this damage, as defined by insurance legislation, can be assessed differently depending on the composition of the family: whether the deceased was a breadwinner, whether he had dependents, etc.
This process is long, and in all countries it takes a long time, but it is going on. We control how this happens. We believe that all the issues will be resolved in relation to the relatives of both the deceased passengers and the deceased crew.
– How exactly are negotiations with Iran going on compensation for the cost of the plane? Has Iran started returning funds?
– As for the compensation to the lessor, the owner of this aircraft, it has already been settled, there is no more dispute there.
As for the damage caused directly to UIA, experts are now assessing its size, and we are considering the possibility of arbitration in order as a company to demand compensation from Iran. UIA, with its specialists, experts in the field of aviation, participated in almost all the meetings between the governments of Ukraine and Iran. The last meeting took place in June, there were no more of them. It is difficult to say how much progress has been made on this issue.
– The Foreign Ministry of Ukraine claims that progress is not great.
– Alas, not great. When people turn to us for an expert opinion, we are interested in participating in all negotiations. We’ve also prepared a very serious document – comments on the technical report of Iran, which was posted on the websites of IATA and the Iranian State Aviation Administration. There are comments from all institutions: the Security Service of Ukraine, the Prosecutor’s Office, the National Bureau of Air Accidents Investigation of Ukraine (the authority that conducts investigations into air crashes from the Ukrainian government).
We are forced to state the fact that the investigation itself in Tehran was carried out with insufficient quality, while, according to international law, no one except Iran has the right to conduct this investigation at the site of the disaster. The prosecutor’s office is seriously aimed at continuing the criminal case against, as I understand it, the Iranian authorities, the military authorities, etc. on this issue and establishing criminal facts in this catastrophe.
The process, unfortunately, is not supported by Iran’s goodwill and, accordingly, will go against their wishes. Let’s hope that the common will of Canada, Sweden, Ukraine – the entire coalition will be enough to politically apply the necessary pressure.
– Do you need more trips of Ukrainian specialists to Iran to continue the investigation on this issue? And can this be somehow organized in the current situation?
– There is no point in traveling to Iran. Not so long ago, we organized a trip for the families of the deceased crew members to the crash site, which they visited for the first time in two years, and from their words I know that there is no crash site as such, everything has been cleaned up. It’s just that there is a geographical place where it happened, the Iranian government installed some kind of memorial sign here. But there is nothing left to investigate at the very scene of the incident.
How do we, as an airline, plan to honor this tragic event? Kyiv gave us a site in a public garden in the Dniprovsky Hay (a small forest), which we have already partially landscaped. Trees have been planted there according to the number of dead passengers and crew members; in the spring it is planned to build a symbolic memorial. Now this place is already landscaped. And on January 8, we plan to invite there everyone who is ready to honor the memory of this tragic event, including representatives of the government and relatives of the families of the victims. Many of our workers who carry this pain in their hearts will surely come. We will continue to look after this park and support it as a place of memory.
– Iran avoids negotiations with the international coordination group on compensation for damage to the UIA aircraft. The Foreign Ministry noted that the coordination group will have to seriously consider other ways of resolving this issue within the framework of international law. How will UIA react if Ukraine files a claim with Iran at the UN International Court of Justice?
– This is a government decision. It’s hard for me to judge, but I think that any pressure that Ukraine can exert on Iran in this matter plays an important role.
After there was no fair solution to this disaster, we cannot say that the skies over Iran are safe for civil aviation. That is, Ukraine, taking into account this catastrophe, firmly estimates the sky over Iran as unsafe. None of Ukrainian airlines fly there and there are no plans to fly there. Therefore, maybe, at least by increasing legal pressure, a fair decision will be reached, there will be compensation for the country, the relatives of the victims, and the issue will be settled. This is important for civil aviation. Therefore, we welcome any attempts by the state to move forward on this issue.
– In fact, shortly after the Iranian tragedy, you received another blow – the beginning of the pandemic and an almost complete stop of air traffic between the countries from 2020. Airlines had to pay large amounts of compensation for canceled flights. Have you already settled with your clients on this issue?
– We, of course, did not have the opportunity to immediately pay our passengers all the tickets they had not used. But for almost a year and a half, they paid more than $ 55 million in money for unused tickets. At the same time, we also issued a huge number of flights to passengers with vouchers with an additional bonus of 25%, and in most cases they were already used on flights.
– If to take a percentage, how many of your customers chose a voucher, and how many – payment in cash?
– In total, during the pandemic in 2020-2021, UIA issued refunds for passengers for a total amount of about $ 57 million with “real” money. At the same time, vouchers (promotional codes) were issued for about the same amount, taking into account a 25% bonus. That is, in proportion over 60% of refunds were actually issued in cash. At the same time, the lion’s share of promotional codes has already been converted into tickets, but not all of them are used for the flight.
Today I can honestly say that my conscience before our passengers is clear. We really fulfilled all obligations. If there are any unfulfilled ones, then these are already processes of later cancellations, etc., but we will definitely execute them. After all, we have already proved to our passengers that we fulfill all obligations: either in the form of money (albeit later), or in the form of vouchers that can be used for other flights.
It is due to the fact that the calculations were carried out for a long time, that we were slowly able to practically “wash” $ 55 million out of the circulating assets and at the same time not “kill” the company. But it is still very difficult for us, so at the moment UIA needs to resolve financial issues to support the company in the winter.
– And what about the staff now? How much has these two years of the pandemic changed your approach to personnel policy?
– In the aviation world, people are the most valuable asset. I don’t even know in what other businesses people are such a valuable resource. After all, aviation competence is learned for a very long time and is expensive.
We regret that we were forced at a difficult time in 2020 and 2021 to carry out such a massive layoff, having reduced the staff by almost 40%. Before the pandemic, we had about 2,600 people, but due to the crisis provoked by COVID-19 in the aviation market, we had to reduce the staff to about 1,600 people.
However, we keep in touch with all our dismissed pilots and flight attendants, we know where they are, what they are doing. These are people who left the company not voluntarily, but they probably retained a certain loyalty to the company. And as soon as we begin to increase the volume of traffic, build up our fleet, first of all, we will begin to return these people as well. We are confident that the company will be able to return most of the employees who grew up in the company and are trained in the procedures for working at UIA, especially the young copilots.
This question is very sensitive and important for us. And we want to get back to growth as soon as possible so we can start getting our people back to work.
The Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine under the leadership of ex-minister Vladyslav Krykliy has failed to implement a program of state support for Ukrainian airlines that carried out evacuation flights during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
“We prepared the logic of compensation and relevant initiatives, submitted it to the Cabinet of Ministers. Then the Ministry of Finance refused with the classic explanation – there is no money. But they promised to return as soon as possible … But this is not even direct funding, but a loyalty program for airport and air navigation services … But even so we were not allowed to realize this,” Krykliy said in an interview with the Interfax-Ukraine agency.
He also noted that the issue of compensation to air carriers for 2020 is “not about reforms, but about justice.”
According to Krykliy, absolutely all countries in Europe help their air carriers, but this item was not included in the priorities of the Ukrainian government.
As reported, earlier the Ministry of Infrastructure planned to provide targeted assistance to state airports to create discount programs for airlines that participated in the evacuation of Ukrainian citizens during the first wave of the pandemic lockdown.
Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine Oleksandr Tkachenko says that the ministry is already preparing a proposal to the government on the regime of financial compensation for cultural sector.
“The Ministry of Culture is already preparing our proposal to the Cabinet of Ministers on the regime of financial compensation. We will appeal to the European experience, because the introduction of a lockdown there provided for financial compensation from the state to business entities (including self-employed ones) for a period of downtime,” Tkachenko wrote in the Telegram channel on Wednesday.
In this connection, the minister cited calculations on the impact of quarantine on culture, tourism and creative industries.
So, according to the minister, 2% of the country’s GDP, or more than UAH 83 billion, is the total loss of business in the cultural sector, creative industries and tourism from lost income since the beginning of March, taking into account the first lockdown.
In particular, in the field of tourism: a decline in the tourist flow by 75%; average loss of income for one weekend – UAH 1,045 million.
Hotels – drop in average occupancy from 50% to 20%; average loss of income for one weekend – UAH 119,7 million.
Cinemas – 39% loss of visitors; average loss of income for one weekend – UAH 17,13 million.
Culture and creative industries (excluding IT and film networks) – loss of 50% of income due to restrictions on holding events and entering institutions, loss of solvency; average loss of income for one weekend – UAH 324.16 million.
In addition, the minister said that a lockdown of tourism, culture and creative industries could lead to a loss of about 10% of GDP over the next five years.
According to him, the recovery of markets will take place slowly due to the migration of specialists to more protected industries, and the negative balance of the labor force in creative industries will lead to the loss of their export potential and the possibility of promoting Ukraine in the world through creative products and services.
The National Commission for Communications and Informatization Regulation (NCCR) has proposed to telecom operators within one month to file an application to the regulator about the early introduction of the new radio technology in the radio frequency (RF) band lower 1 GHz and settle the issue of concentration of a part of spectrum with two market players via quitting some RF by them on a voluntary basis. According to the regulator’s website, the applications on behalf of operators about the early introduction of the new technology are required because NCCR lacks the legislative authority to make regulatory decisions aimed at changing the current situation.
The commission recalled that, unlike the 1800 MHz band, suitable for the introduction of new radio technologies, the RF spectrum in the 900 MHz band is almost five times smaller, and it is simultaneously used by both general and special users; that this RF is licensed to operators for 3-11 years; that a significant fragmentation of the spectrum and the available concentration of the RF with one telecommunications operator also adversely affect the possibility of introducing new communication technologies in the specified band.
“It was also established that defragmentation of the spectrum would not provide an opportunity of introducing new radio technologies by all operators, given the limited RF they have in use,” the commission said.
The regulator also said that in 2018-2019, the commission, together with industry associations and government agencies, was working to find options for a voluntary frequency exchange, but no agreement was reached between telecommunications operators.
NCCR recommended RF users who, in accordance with the law, carry out operator activities in a certain radio frequency band below 1 GHz, within one month to apply to the commission with an application on the early introduction of new radio technology in this band.
At the same time, the commission recommended to Kyivstar and Intertelecom simultaneously with the said application to submit applications for reducing the relevant RF bands taking into account: the fundamentals of public regulation and the basic principles of using RF spectrum of Ukraine, as well as the number of subscribers of each operator involved by these operators’ resource, as well as the percentage of RF in the 900 MHz band used by EU telecommunications operators, and taking into account the problems of international coordination of RF.
At the same time, the commission considers it advisable to include the liabilities to ensure within 12 months from the date of issuance of a new license to comply with the indicators of the quality of mobile communication services using 3G/4G radio technologies in the territory of each settlement of Ukraine, and on regional, national and international highways of the region, provided for in the new license (except for territories where public authorities are temporarily not exercising their powers, and the territories in which the restrictions for the operation of radio electronic facilities are set) in the special conditions for using RF spectrum under new licenses.
In turn, the Kyivstar mobile operator said that it understands the importance of reducing the digital gap in Ukraine and is ready to consider a possible partial return of RF to the state.
“We have repeatedly offered options for the exchange of frequencies in the 900 MHz band, because this exchange will increase the available spectrum size. We are ready to consider the possibility of a partial return of frequencies to the state under certain conditions… The company acquired RF on legal grounds, at market value, through effective mergers and acquisitions, observing all legislative procedures. It is important for us to understand the regulator’s vision regarding compensation for Kyivstar, as well as the step-by-step reorganization algorithm for the 900 MHz band and their refarming,” President of Kyivstar Alexander Komarov told Interfax-Ukraine, adding that only in 2018, the operator paid more than UAH 1 billion for the rental of RF spectrum.
He also said that the necessary condition for the exchange of radio frequencies in the 900 MHz band is the subsequent introduction of the principle of technology neutrality on the Ukrainian telecom market, which will enable all telecom companies to develop any communication services in frequencies that have already been issued to operators.
Intertelecom has not yet commented on the statement of the commission.