Wizz Air Abu Dhabi venture to be bigger than initially planned

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi venture to be bigger than initially planned
Wizz Air said its expansion plans would continue to be held back by coronavirus-related restrictions in its 2020-2021 financial year. (File/AFP)
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Updated 03 June 2020

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi venture to be bigger than initially planned

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi venture to be bigger than initially planned
  • The joint venture with Abu Dhabi state holding company ADQ will start flying in October
  • Ticket sale will start in June

LONDON: Wizz Air’s Abu Dhabi-based joint venture will now be bigger than originally planned with six aircraft up from three, the Hungary-based carrier’s chief executive said on Wednesday.
The joint venture with Abu Dhabi state holding company ADQ will start flying in October, with tickets on sale from June to destinations in Europe, the Indian subcontinent, Middle East and Africa.
“We are looking at a larger scale start versus what we originally contemplated,” Wizz CEO Jozsef Varadi told Reuters, saying that despite the challenge of COVID-19, Wizz saw opportunities emerging.
“We would be looking at a six aircraft start in the first six months.”
Elsewhere, Wizz Air said its expansion plans would continue to be held back by coronavirus-related restrictions in its 2020-2021 financial year but it was confident on longer-term growth.
The airline is sticking with its fleet expansion plan, meaning that it will have 9 percent more seats by March 2021.
“COVID-19 is a significant issue, making a significant impact on the industry, but at the same time, it is also creating quite some opportunities for us,” Varadi said.
The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out air travel, forcing airlines to make job cuts, shrink their fleets and ask for state bailouts to survive what they see will be a smaller market for years, but Wizz has fared better than many competitors.
The cash-rich airline has one of the strongest balance sheets in Europe. Focused on eastern Europe, but with a growing presence in western Europe, it says its low fares will help it win market share when travel demand recovers, giving it the confidence to stick with its long-term expansion plans.
While it has announced 1,000 job cuts, it is not delaying aircraft deliveries, as many airlines including easyJet and TUI are doing.
“Whatever we can fly, we’re going to be flying because we’ve seen that there is actually demand out there,” Varadi said.
But for its current financial year to the end of March 2021, he said the chances of overall growth were “remote” and it was too early to provide profit guidance.
He said that Wizz, Europe’s no.3 low cost carrier, expected to fly 60 percent of its capacity over the summer and 80 percent from September to March, but plans were subject to the easing of travel restrictions by governments.
That compares to Ryanair, Europe’s biggest low cost carrier, starting to fly at 40 percent capacity and no.2 easyJet at 30 percent in July.
For its last financial year to the end of March 2020, Wizz posted underlying net profit of €344.8 million ($386 million), up 30 percent on the previous year, boosted by passenger numbers which were 16 percent higher and a jump in ancillary revenues.