It would seem like a logical step for Wizz Air Abu Dhabi to become something of a feeder airline for Etihad, or at least to embark on a codeshare arrangement to facilitate connecting passengers. However, the CEO of Wizz, Jozsef Varadi, has made it clear this is not part of his gameplan.
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will not feed Etihad
The launch of Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is edging ever closer. With the airline already having moved its operations in the UAE from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, ahead of a restart of flights within the next two weeks, the new airline is on target to launch later this year.
With a huge presence at Abu Dhabi, Etihad is the dominant long haul airline. As such, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Wizz Air’s new venture might be looking to become a feeder airline for this worldwide giant.
However, CEO of Wizz Air, Jozsef Varadi, moved to stifle any such thoughts, confirming this is not at all in his plans. Speaking in an interview for World Aviation Festival, he said,
“We’re not going to feed Etihad and we’re not going to be the feeder for Etihad.”
He went on to explain how Wizz recognizes the presence of Etihad and is indeed going to leverage that to its advantage. However, there is no plan to codeshare or to change the Wizz recipe for the benefit of the incumbent legacy airline. Varadi went on to say,
“[Wizz] will take some of the services that Etihad can provide, like aircraft maintenance and ground handling. But we’re not going to be in an airline alliance group or a codeshare partnership or anything like that.
“We do what we think is right for our business, and likewise, Etihad will do the same for themselves.”
Will passengers connect?
With the possibility of a codeshare with Etihad out of the question, will there still be opportunities for passengers to connect? Varadi thinks so but says that self-connection will be the main route for this to take place. He said,
“We are a point to point carrier. We bring passengers from A to B at the lowest possible fare, with the best services within that framework we can provide. That’s not going to change, because otherwise, the model makes no sense. People may connect, and we would have an interest in seeing Etihad develop something to provide passengers with alternatives to connecting flights.
“If people self-connect, we encourage them. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Varadi believes that Wizz Air Hungary has the recipe just right, and therefore the new airline won’t move away from the tried and tested protocol that has made the parent airline such a huge success. He said,
“I think we’ve got a recipe, and we just implement the recipe. This is what has made us successful, and it would be pretty silly for us to change this. This is the way to do this business.”
Could Abu Dhabi airport provide options for self-connecting?
The benefits of being able to connect from a low-cost Wizz flight onto a long-haul Etihad flight, or vice versa, are clear to see for passengers. Those arriving in the Middle East would be able to leverage a variety of option to travel onwards and explore into Europe or even across to Asia. With its A321LRs and XLRs on order, Wizz is prepared to consider any destinations within six and a half hours of Abu Dhabi, so it could end up being a huge network operating out of its new hub.
But for Varadi, trying to facilitate those connections is a step too far for Wizz. He said,
“You have to stay very focused. Connectivity comes with complexities you need to eliminate, so we’re not inclined to do that at all. But, at the same time, we recognize self-connection as a way of people moving around, and maybe Abu Dhabi airport can take a role here. They could facilitate those consumer needs.”
It’s an interesting idea and one that we’ve seen becoming increasingly popular at other airports, particularly in Europe. A prime example is Milan Bergamo Airport, which, in partnership with Kiwi.com, has opened advanced self-connection facilities, which include baggage handling provision.
Indeed, Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD), Wizz Air’s main base, has embarked on a similar partnership with Kiwi to facilitate self-connecting transfers.
The evolution of the relationship between Etihad and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will be interesting to watch. But it’s clear from the comments of the Wizz CEO that, for the foreseeable future, at least, there will be no deep collaboration going on to jeopardize his ambitious plans for the new carrier.