High prices, canceled flights mar Champions League final
ABS-CBN Sports on May 25, 2018 09:11 AM
A woman takes a photo of a banner depicting Liverpool team at a fan-zone in Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, May 24, 2018. Liverpool will play Real Madrid in the Champions League Final on May 26 at the Olympiyski stadium in Kiev. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
By James Ellingworth, Associated Press
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Price hikes and canceled flights are ruining the Champions League final for some fans two days before Real Madrid and Liverpool even kick off.
Some owners of hotels and hostels in Kiev have raised prices by more than 10 times for Saturday's game, while the city's two airports have been unable to accommodate a rush of extra charter flights.
That led to British travel operator World Choice Sports canceling three flights on Thursday, leaving hundreds of Liverpool fans stranded.
"We have had Liverpool football club, police, UEFA and everyone at the highest levels of authority trying to resolve this," the company said in a statement. "We have exhausted all avenues to try and get landing slots."
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said he was in talks with his Kiev counterpart Vitali Klitschko — the former heavyweight boxing champion — and said "fan flights hopefully sorted soon."
Fans who arrived early were happy with Ukraine's cheap food and drinks — a beer can be bought in the center of the city for 50 hryvnyas ($1.90) — but some were frustrated by travel and accommodation.
Davy Ryan and Mikey O'Leary, Liverpool fans from Ireland relaxing in town, said they spent 800 euros ($940) and 1,100 euros ($1,290), respectively, on travel. They booked a hotel in Kiev but it was canceled and the owner hiked the price, they said.
"They had a stupid excuse, like they had no electricity for the weekend," Ryan said. "Once they canceled it, we went back online and the price was up to, like, 6,000 euros ($7,000)."
It worked out for Ryan and O'Leary, however, because they found another place to stay for 240 euros ($280) for four nights.
There were signs that some Kiev hotels and apartment owners were dropping prices closer to the game, indicating that astronomical prices in earlier weeks hadn't found takers.
Some Kiev hotels advertised three-star rooms online for as much as $2,000 a night as of Thursday evening. Some fans were so deterred by the cost that they gave up their tickets. Madrid fans had around 1,000 tickets refunded out of an allocation of 17,000, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said on Thursday.
Kiev was awarded the final in 2016 without a competitive bidding process, the last year that happened. Since then, cities have had to submit bids to UEFA, starting with 2019 host Madrid, which beat a challenge from the Azerbaijani capital Baku.
The rush into Kiev will be matched by an exodus after the final, sometimes by unconventional routes to avoid the overloaded airports. Ryan and O'Leary said they plan to take two trains to Poland before flying to Dublin from Krakow.
Liverpool fans Jay Fowler and Charlie MacInnes said they hadn't found a flight home, but arrived in Kiev anyway.
"We'll probably take it easy," MacInnes said. "Depends on the result. We might stay for a party."