Wizz Air Continues Its Assault On Business Class

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Wizz Air has released a new ad targeting legacy airlines with a Business class offering. The airline admonished three European based airlines for their poor contribution to the environment. The campaign advances comments made by Wizz Air CEO back in November.

Wizz Air continues its onslaught of Business class travel. Photo: Wizz Air

Green airline lashes out at Business class

The self-proclaimed ‘greenest airline in Europe’ has led an offensive against large legacy airlines in a bid to banish business class.

The low-cost airline, headquartered in Hungary, targeted three major airlines in a 60-second advert which highlighted the environmental cost of flying business. The airline confronted British Airways, Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines in a tweet that said: “We need to talk.”

In the advert, the airline makes bold claims about the business class carbon footprint with these airlines. Wizz Air says that the impact on the environment flying business class with these three airlines is twice as much as economy with Wizz Air.

The advert also goes on to say that solo-commuting, over-packing business travelers represent the antithesis of Wizz Air’s minimalistic model. And it’s the habitual and unconscious thinking pattern of business travelers which is damaging the environment.

In a press release emailed to Simple Flying, the airline’s CEO stated:

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“Business class should be banned on every short haul flight. These business class passengers account for twice the carbon footprint of an economy class passenger, and the industry is guilty of preserving an inefficient and archaic model. A rethink is long overdue. Wizz Air calls on fellow airlines to commit to a total ban on business class travel for any flight of at least less than five hours. The age of old school travel is over, just like business class.”

These environmental claims are quite different from what normally circulates in the aviation industry but this isn’t the first time that Wizz Air has called out the legacy airlines.

Wizz Air is approaching the climate debate from a new angle. Photo: Wizz Air

Seeing red over green concerns

Wizz Air CEO, József Váradi, has been particularly vocal about his thoughts on legacy airlines’ approach to the environment. He said that the low-pressure attitude of these air carriers is concerning. Despite pledges for carbon neutrality, Váradi does not believe that these airlines are doing enough and that’s down to the business model. In the Q2 2020 Results Earnings Call, Váradi said:

“Inherently, their business model is environmentally polluting. I mean, flying a lot of business class, flying a lot of connecting passengers, they are affecting the environment in a bad way.”

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But this new advert is the first time that the airline has gone public about its concerns. Does its assessment of the legacy airlines stack up?

Is Wizz Air right?

The truth of the matter is that Wizz Air does have a point. It claims to be the greenest airline in Europe and with an impressive 56g CO2 produced per passenger/km, it really is. And that is due partly to the fact that it doesn’t have a business class. In fact, its seats are notoriously tiny which means it can fly more passengers. What’s more, the low-cost element makes it more likely that it will sell its fares and operate with a high load factor.

Wizz Air is going all out to reduce its carbon footprint. Photo: Wizz Air

By contrast, business class fares usually come with all the luxuries of more dedicated service and cramp-free legs which means the airlines operating this class manage to sit fewer passengers per service. Wizz Air also points out that not all business class seats are filled on every flight and it’s right in thinking that this also has an impact on passenger carbon footprint.

Wizz Air was also fairly accurate in isolating British Airways in its tweet as one of the named contributors. British Airways has had a poor track record with fuel-efficiency named the worst transatlantic carrier for fuel-efficiency in 2018.

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So, Wizz has a point when it comes to business class, but does its advert accurately represent that?

Passing the dirty buck

Wizz Air makes some good claims about the impact of business class. The conversation around the aviation industry’s impact has largely been centered around low-cost airlines not representing the true cost of flying. The argument goes that low-cost carriers promote more frequent air travel as its usually cheaper than other methods of transport.

However, a lot of Wizz Air’s latest marketing campaign seems to turn the argument around and point the finger at those who aren’t able to sell all their seats and who also who have fewer seats to offer. It’s a good angle and a thought-provoking message, but the downfall might be in the execution.

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Wizz Air makes a lot of claims in the advert about how business travelers differ from those who fly with Wizz Air. It makes grand assumptions that every business traveler comes to the airport by private taxi and packs excess luggage. By comparison, Wizz Air travelers only bring what is necessary and spend their money on cultural experiences and not on expensive seats. But these sweeping assumptions are just that. Not every business traveler hates the environment and not every Wizz Air passenger is a green-fingered adventurer with the environment’s best concerns at heart.

What’s more, some of the accused airlines have made pledges to the environment and there is a sense of urgency in their actions. Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr is certainly concerned and British Airways is taking steps towards carbon offsetting. But, supposedly the point is that no airline in Europe is doing just as much as Wizz Air is doing. It might be right. Wizz Air’s commitment to the environment is certainly admirable.

But some airlines like Lufthansa really are concerned. Photo: IATA

A blameless Wizz Air?

Whilst its CO2 emissions might be irreprehensible, the ultra-low-cost model that Wizz Air operates is not the most environmentally friendly. Low-cost airlines have been targeted for their environmental impact for a reason. They open up the market with low fares which allows passengers to travel more frequently and completely negates the option of looking at alternative modes of transport. When you can travel abroad for less than it costs to get a bus ticket to the train station, why would you?

Whilst its advert is making consumers think, it’s also advertising low-cost flights with Wizz Air. The airline has also just undergone a network expansion making it cheaper and easier to jet off to those holiday destinations.

But, we can’t forget that Wizz Air needs to remain competitive. And with new aircraft and a young fleet, it’s taking every measure it can for the environment whilst continuing to appeal to the low-cost market.

Conclusion

The question overriding the whole argument is: is business class really to blame? And to this, our response would be: yes, but it’s not the only one.

Wizz Air certainly cares about the environment, but its green operation can not be plastered over all the low-cost carriers in the world. Nor can its message about business class travelers work as a portrait for every traveler who chooses this seating class.

Most airlines in the industry are trying to do their bit for the environment. They all have different business models and so some solutions are more practical for them at this moment.

What do you think? Is business the bad guy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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