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Reopening Ukrainian airports during wartime: Requirements and risks

Reopening Ukrainian airports during wartime: Requirements and risks Boryspil Airport (RBC-Ukraine)

Ukraine is working on opening its airspace and assessing the risks of such a decision, announces Minister for Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development of Ukraine, Oleksandr Kubrakov.

Aviation expert Bogdan Dolintse provided comments to RBC-Ukraine on the technical requirements for opening an airport under current circumstances.

What is needed to open airport for flights

The expert explains that infrastructure readiness is essential for airport reopening. Any damages must be repaired, while internal factors affecting flight safety such as air traffic and infrastructure must be addressed.

"The second important component of the technical issue is that contracts need to be concluded with airlines, there must be handling companies that can serve passengers, provide aircraft refueling and technical repair services," the expert notes.

Furthermore, trained and certified personnel are necessary to perform flight-related tasks or services.

"That is the bare minimum that allows the airport to obtain or confirm its certificate for conducting activities related to receiving and dispatching aircraft. With such readiness, operational work can basically start within a few weeks, perhaps slightly longer," Dolintse noted.

However, there are two other crucial components, including legal, meaning lifting restrictions on airspace usage both near the airport and along flight routes and ensuring airspace security from external threats related to military risks, such as kamikaze drones, sabotage groups, and missiles.

Reopening Ukrainian airports during wartime: Requirements and risks

Photo: Boryspil Airport ( Harassek)

What airports Ukraine could open

The expert says that to consider the possible opening of an airport, flight safety in different parts of the airspace needs evaluation. Specific zones need to be identified, conducting flight safety analysis in each.

"On one hand, airports in western Ukraine may be considered to have lower risk zones compared to those in central Ukraine. However, the presence of airspace protection measures in each region also plays a significant role. It may turn out that Kyiv's airports are better protected than Lviv's," the aviation expert says.

If any zone is identified as one where flights can be resumed, the readiness of airport infrastructure, airlines, and insurance companies to operate under such conditions needs to be evaluated, he added.

"Theoretically, the technical aspect is at a sufficiently high level and allows for the swift resumption of air transportation. The political aspect is increasing, but for now, statements are cautious, more associated with attempts to involve European or other regulators in the process," Dolintse said.

On the other hand, opening airspace without military approval during wartime is impossible.

"We currently lack a military position on any possibility of opening airspace and readiness to ensure such opening. Statements last year clearly indicated that no opening is possible until the end of hostilities. If this rhetoric changes, then partial opening can be discussed - perhaps starting with airports in western Ukraine," he explained.

Reopening Ukrainian airports during wartime: Requirements and risksPhoto: Lviv Airport before the war (

It is unclear what shelters airports propose, airline representative

It's difficult to predict how flights will be conducted during a state of war and constant danger, according to Oleksandr Dzhydzhora, a representative of the Ukrainian airline Bees Airline.

"Theoretically, airports close to the border can provide flights. But what will be the overall cost of insuring such aircraft? Which leasing companies will agree to provide planes? Airlines with their own aircraft have a better chance. All market players would like to resume flights. But in practice, it's not just about the desire to open flights or not. Infrastructure, personnel, and most importantly, security considerations must be taken into account," he said in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.

Railways operate during wartime. It's also important to consider that many aviation industry workers left the country when Russia's large-scale aggression began. And it is not the only factor contributing to complexity.

"Some point out that railway transport is operating, and stations are open. Airports hardly differ. As far as I understand, airports are ready to operate. They tried to maintain the qualification of personnel as much as possible. But there will certainly be significant questions from leasing companies, and it's also unclear what shelters airports propose, and where to go during an alert. What should an airplane do when an air alert starts? If it remains in the airport, it will incur additional costs. If it flies, it's a direct danger," he added.

According to the expert, opening any of the airports in Ukraine during wartime is a comprehensive issue that needs to be thoroughly worked out, considering all aspects. The most crucial of these issues is flight safety.

Earlier, the deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Sybiha, stated that the first airport to open in Ukraine would be Boryspil.