Ukraine International Airlines (UIA)—which had planned to take delivery of three Boeing 737 MAX 8s beginning in mid-April—is considering switching from Boeing to Airbus aircraft as a long-term fleet strategy step.

UIA may also have to adjust its 2020 delivery schedule as MAX deliveries have been postponed until the US manufacturer’s flight-control software upgrade is certified and the grounding is lifted.

Speaking on the sidelines of the IATA AGM in Seoul, UIA CEO Yuri Miroshnikov said, “The worst part is [planning for] the future, because the time is approaching [when we need to determine] what happens to [our fleet plan for next year]. Can we count on the MAXs or should we find alternatives?”

Miroshnikov said the carrier had at least two additional MAXs in mind. “However, it would be very optimistic [if the aircraft returned] to service by autumn this year.”

UIA is getting regular updates from Boeing, but every update is not final; every time there is a further postponement on uncertainty, he said.

Miroshnikov said the solution to add additional 737-800NGs to the fleet instead the 737 MAX is not attractive because UIA had wanted to make its fleet younger by continuing to renew its aircraft program.

“All our 737 Classics (737-300s/400s/500s) have been replaced. This year, we will begin replacing our first 737-800 NGs through lease terminations. The 737 MAX [played] an important role [in this plan]—also to keep a stable fleet size.”

The grounding has led to a fleet reduction. “We have had to adjust schedules, cancel certain frequencies, review a lot of things,” he said. “That all happened before the summer peak season where we were supposed to capitalize quite effectively with the new 737 MAX.”

Miroshnikov said UIA may consider switching from a Boeing to an Airbus fleet, “but this would be through a strategy step. Through a [request for proposal] RFP for a total fleet replacement—it is a very serious issue because whoever would win, Airbus or Boeing, there should be a plan to replace the existing fleet in a certain practical timeframe. This could be considered a long-term strategy step, but not as a tactical step to resolve the shortage caused by grounding of 737 MAX.”

Asked if UIA will one day ask Boeing for compensation for additional costs related to the MAX grounding, he said, “Never say never.”

Kurt Hofmann, hofmann.aviation@netway.at