British ladies' champion McKay scored a personal best of 52.47 in her short programme and said she was "pleased" to progress to the free skate in a tough competition. Only the top 24 skaters qualify to compete beyond the short programme.
Russia was first, second and third going into the free skate. Alena Kostornaia placed first with 84.92 points at the event in Graz, Austria, followed by Anna Shcherbakova with 77.95 and Alexanbdra Trusiva at 74.95.
She told The Scotsman: "I was pleased to qualify as the standard has definitely gone up this year. I made a silly mistake on the double axel which has cost me probably four points, however I now feel comfortable at this level and feel that I have other attributes including my components that can keep my score within the qualification places.
"I will keep working hard through the free skate and up to the World Championships where I hope to put down two more solid performances."
McKay has previously said she has had her “best season” so far, scooping a bronze medal at the Golden Bear competition in Croatia and a silver at the Denkova-Staviski Cup in Bulgaria.
She ranked 20th at last year's European Championships in Minsk, Belarus and 21st at the World Championships last year in Japan.
Yesterday, Prestwick-born ice dancer Lewis Gibson and his partner Lilah Fear qualified for the free dance programme in sixth place.
The competition continues tonight with the final section of the pairs competition, where Britain represented by Zoe Jones - the oldest ever British competitor in a European championships at 40 - and her partner Christopher Boyadji, from Swindon. The couple qualified for the free programme in 11th place.
Dmitri Aliev of Russia won gold in the mens' competition yesterday with 26 points to spare - taking the first European title for a Russian man since 2012. Sheffield's PJ Hallam did not qualify for the mens' free skate after the short programme on Wednesday.