Despite the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war preventing operations within its home country, SkyUp has found a new niche in providing wet leases to airlines across Europe. After a busy summer season, the Ukrainian low-cost carrier is looking for new partners through the winter.
Wet lease for a cause
During the summer, SkyUp announced it would partner with several airlines, with three of its aircraft heading to Corendon Airlines, two to Smartwings, and one each to Wizz Air, Tailwind Airlines, and Freebird Airlines. The airline’s striking orange and white jets have since been spotted covering 227 short and medium-haul routes, carrying a total of 619,527 passengers.
As airlines begin gearing up for the winter travel season, SkyUp is looking for new partners to continue operations in support of Ukraine. The carrier is open to working with airlines worldwide, bar Russia, Belarus, and regions impacted by ongoing conflicts.
“By leasing our aircraft, you’re not simply providing much-needed capacity to the airline and people from Ukraine, but also giving the Ukrainian aviation industry a chance to survive and recover,” SkyUp wrote in a social media post.
Between February and September 2022, SkyUp performed 4,219 flights for its wet lease partners, around half its capacity compared to the same period in 2021.
“We’re ready to do much more,” the carrier added.
In 2021, SkyUp ranked as one of Ukraine’s busiest airlines, carrying 2.57 million passengers. Plans for continued expansion in 2022 were put on hold in mid-February after the carrier’s aircraft lessor barred operations in Ukrainian airspace amid political tensions.
The carrier was able to bounce back quickly, shifting its focus away from scheduled operations and diversifying its revenue sources to include charter, cargo, and wet leasing. In the weeks following the outbreak of the war, SkyUp notably operated a series of evacuation flights between Chisinau and Tel Aviv, ferrying 2,835 passengers back to Israel.
Photo: SkyUp Airlines
SkyUp transported around 112 tonnes of humanitarian cargo, distributing medicine, personal care products, and baby essentials to Ukrainian refugees in Moldova and Ukraine. In the process, the carrier teamed up with Suceava Airport in Romania, offering the possibility of chartered cargo services.
In August, SkyUp took delivery of an additional Boeing 737-800 from Irish aircraft lessor Avolon, bringing its Boeing 737NG fleet up to 12. SkyUp currently operates a mix of 10 -800 variants and two reduced-capacity -700s. SkyUp holds orders for five Boeing 737 MAX jets, including the 8 and 10, with options for five more MAX aircraft, though no delivery timeline has been announced.
The carrier has retained 1,500 employees through the conflict, including 408 flight attendants and 204 pilots. As of August 31, around 80% of its employees are “partially or fully employed,” though the carrier intends to restore its capacity in full.
What carriers would you like to see partner with SkyUp? Let us know in the comments.