By Jack Laurenson
KYIV – Citing logistical challenges, thousands of football fans preparing to travel to Kyiv for the Champion's League Final have cancelled their trip and returned their tickets.
England's Liverpool Football Club face Spain's Real Madrid on Saturday May 26, but 2,200 Spanish fans just returned their tickets, saying it was too complicated and expensive to get to Kyiv.
City authorities here say they expect over 100,000 international fans to arrive in Kyiv for the Final. Businesses have already been cashing in, with hotels cancelling prior reservations and increasing prices to as much as $8,000 per night. Hostels, before they sold out, were charging as much as $500 per bunk.
For Spanish and English fans ready to make the trip, availability and price of flights has also become a big concern, with many now cancelling their plans due to the difficulties involved.
Many flights to Kyiv quickly sold out, even though they cost as much as $1,500. Travel companies and airlines have blamed the high costs on needing to lease extra planes to cope with demand.
In response to flight prices having sky-rocketed, some Liverpool fans are planning to drive or take buses to Ukraine.
Others have posted that they plan to travel to Polish destinations such as Lublin, Warsaw or Krakow before connecting to Kyiv somehow.
One travel company, Thomas Cook, said they were doing everything possible to make the journey easier but extra costs were inevitable.
“At the request of Liverpool Football Club, Thomas Cook have worked to secure additional aircraft for the Champions League Final in Kyiv," they said in a written statement.
“Unfortunately, but also unavoidably, the aircraft was secured at a higher cost, which is reflected in the higher price for supporters.”
According to city officials here, Kyiv currently has about 13,300 hotel rooms, but Kyiv City Council expects at least 100,000 fans for the 25-27 May weekend, meaning the city has fewer than one room for every 13 fans. Few rooms remain, despite many hotels having increased their rates by thousands of dollars.
In response to controversy surrounding price increases Ukraine's Antimonopoly Committee announced plans to investigate.
At the same time, under the banner of #FairB&B, many Ukrainians are making their spare rooms and sofas available to visiting fans via social media groups and forums.
Hundreds of citizens are offering rooms and beds for free to counter the negative publicity. One Facebook group, FreeKyivCouch4Fans has nearly 5,000 members in less than a week.
“We don’t want Kyiv remembered as the capital of hustlers,” says the group. “Local people are ready to host for free.”
Ukrainian train carrier Ukrzaliznytsia has also stepped up to offer fans affordable accommodations near Kyiv’s Central Train Station. The company is offering budget rooms from 7.50 to 26.00 USD per night.
For comments or story ideas please contact the author of this report, UBJ Managing Editor Jack Laurenson, at: email@example.com.
Lee Reaney contributed to this story. Posted May 17, 2018.