While airlines all over Europe were struggling to keep afloat, Wizz Air has stood out for undertaking a rapid and dramatic expansion. The CEO of the airline, Jozsef Varadi, admits that this bold approach hasn’t come without cost, saying that wrong decisions have been made along the way.
Breaking the mold
If there’s one airline that stands out for its unique approach to the COVID crisis, it has to be European budget carrier Wizz Air. While other airlines grounded fleets and cut routes, Wizz Air took the opposite track. Since the start of the pandemic, it has launched more than 260 new routes and opened 14 bases, with more on the way.
Some might say the airline has gone too far. Indeed, not all of its endeavors have been a success. Speaking at this week’s Routes Reconnected conference, CEO of Wizz Air Jozsef Varadi admitted that the airline had made some wrong decisions during the crisis, but said that he was happy with the overall outcome. He stated,
“We took a lot of risks and we made a lot of wrong decisions, but we are happy with that.”
Making a bad decision is better than no decision at all
Speaking about the mistakes made, Varadi said that this was a decision on the part of the airline that was made very early in the crisis.
“We made up our mind very quickly on this and decided that we will be agile, and we will be making decisions. We were prepared to make mistakes.”
While Varadi talks about ‘mistakes’, from the outside looking in, there were no glaring errors on the part of Wizz. The airline has jumped on every opportunity going, even defying the skeptics and starting domestic services in Norway, despite unwelcome unionization issues.
However, not all of its endeavors have been a success. In Norway, the airline implemented some temporary flight cancellations in this market in November, which would suggest it has not performed quite as well as expected. And in the east, it suspended eight Bosnia routes, and completely pulled out of Slovenia.
Nevertheless, Varadi stands by his strategy of making bold moves in a timely manner, saying,
“We wanted to make sure that we don’t fall into that category of trying to be right on everything … You can’t be [right], because by the time you think you are right, you are irrelevant, because the market has moved so much, and others have outsmarted you.”
Owning his stance
Varadi was famously optimistic in the early stage of the pandemic. He predicted a return to normality before the end of the summer, saying that Wizz would be back to full capacity within 12 months. The CEO owns his mistake, however, saying,
“Within the management team, of course, everyone had an opinion. I had an opinion, and most of the time I was wrong with my opinion.”
Regardless of his perhaps overly-optimistic start to the crisis, Varadi admits that it has been a steep learning curve. Nevertheless, he stands by the airline’s commitment to making decisions on sometimes thin information, and believes that this strategy is better than doing nothing at all. He said,
“It has been a learning process, and you make a lot of wrong decisions. But I think the worst thing that you can do is to be afraid of the consequences of any decision making. You do nothing and you just keep backing yourself into a situation.”
Wizz continues its push to maximize opportunity, with the announcement of a new base in Cardiff today. From the spring, Wizz will fly to nine destinations from the Welsh capital, and is clearly seeing an opportunity to challenge Ryanair and TUI Airways for a share of the holiday traffic.