Wizz Air is unhappy with the current slot waivers put forward by regulators. As one of the few airlines continuing to expand, Wizz hopes to pick up more slots at London Gatwick. However, the current waiver on the usual slot rules means that airlines not using their slots can still hold on to them, blocking Wizz from taking them over.
While most airlines have parked their fleets and operated few routes, Wizz Air has taken the opposite approach. This year alone, the carrier has opened new bases in London Gatwick, Doncaster Sheffield, Larnaca, and many more. This is in addition to the airline’s new subsidiary in Abu Dhabi. With such breakneck expansion, you might forget the aviation industry is in its worst crisis ever!
However, Wizz has been vocally opposed to the current EU slot waivers, which allows airlines to keep slots without flying the needed 80% of landings and takeoffs. The waiver is preventing Wizz from taking new slots at London Gatwick, forcing it to slow its growth in the London market.
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While Gatwick airport is fast becoming a low-cost battleground, slot restrictions mean new airlines cannot break into the airport just yet. Several airlines have left or reduced Gatwick services this year, including Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian, but are yet to relinquish their slots.
Not the first complaint
This isn’t the first time Wizz has spoken out against the slot waivers, even calling them “nonsense.” The airline has called waivers against the free market and protects incumbent airlines with weak business models. Currently, nearly $2bn worth of slots are blocked at Gatwick airport.
For now, the EU has extended slot waiver through March 27th, 2021, delaying any expansion for Wizz Air until then. However, as some call for waivers in the summer season, the airline has blasted any such talk. CEO Jozef Vardi, in a statement seen by Reuters, said,
“We can keep deferring to COVID-19 forever, but the fact of the matter is that there are airlines who are capable and able to recover quickly…There are airlines that will be dragging for a long time or may never come out of this. It’s almost criminal to hold the slots they don’t have any intention to operate.”
As the second wave of COVID-19 continues to cripple airlines across Europe, the EU might favor another extension. Some notable people have spoken against an extension, including Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate and Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary.
However, a lot can change between now and March, including the potential of a vaccine helping travel restart. For now, Wizz Air will likely find itself shut out from being a major operator at Gatwick.
What do you think about Wizz Air’s stance about slot waivers? Should the EU open up airports once again? Let us know in the comments!