Airlines with fleet commonality enjoy a significant cost saving over those with mixed fleets. However, it also means they have less choice when it comes to serving routes that perhaps have lower demand. For Wizz, could the A321neo simply be too big for some operations? Its COO told us he thinks not.
The A321neo is not too big
When airlines try out new routes, the choice of aircraft deployed is carefully managed. Historical data on passenger demand is utilized to estimate the footfall they are likely to gain, informing whether they should service the route with a regional aircraft, a single-aisle jet, or even something bigger.
But when you don’t have much variety in a fleet, that choice is removed. For an airline like Wizz Air, it has a choice basically between the A320 and the A321, with the fleet split roughly equally between the two.
However, that is set to change, as the airline has a huge order in for 186 more A321neos to arrive over the coming years. There are still some A320neos to be delivered too, but in the long term, the fleet will be very much weighted towards the largest Airbus narrowbody.
With the A321neo fast becoming the backbone of the Wizz Air fleet, and set to become even more prominent in the future, could it end up being simply too big for some of the airline’s more experimental routes? Simple Flying asked Wizz Air Group COO George Michalopoulos just that, and he said,
“That’s not our experience, our experience is that there is such a small increase in trip cost between an A320 and an A321neo that those additional 59 seats simply mean we are able to lower fares and stimulate additional demand. I think our experience is that if it doesn’t work on an A321neo, it probably wouldn’t have worked on an A320 either. So it really doesn’t move the dial in that sense.”
The Wizz CCO firmly confirmed that the airline will never look beyond the A320 family of aircraft for its fleet needs. Going smaller doesn’t make sense, as it would add complexity and a loss of commonality to its operations. Going bigger, to fly a widebody, is just a plain nope. With the marginal differences in operating costs, Wizz believes that the A321neo is just as good at scoping out new opportunities as the smaller A320 is.
The ULCC gamechanger
Wizz Air has long maintained that the A321neo is the ultimate aircraft for the ultra-low-cost carrier. It has gone as far as to call it the ‘real gamechanger,’ using Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary’s words against him. Michalopoulos explained how, in his eyes, the 737 MAX was not as big of a gamechanger aircraft as the A321neo. He said,
“I think the key is the number of seats onboard. We get 239 seats on the A321neo versus Ryanair, which gets 197 on their MAX. That’s 22% more seats. And I can guarantee you that the trip cost difference is not 22%. it’s significantly lower.
“I think the other thing with the neo is also the engines; the new Pratt engines. These are new technology, which are more efficient and have lower fuel consumption. So, these two factors really make the A321neo a gamechanger aircraft for a ULCC.”
For Wizz, the A321neo will be its workhorse for everything it needs in the coming years. With the A321XLR set to arrive with the airline in the future, Wizz will have the flexibility in range it needs to open new destinations and continue connecting the dots within its existing network.