Wizz Thinks India Is Attractive Despite Regulatory Hurdles

In an exclusive interview with Simple Flying, Wizz Air CCO George Michalopoulos spoke about the potential for the Indian market. With a new airline in Abu Dhabi, the carrier can now extend its reach into South Asia and offer low-fare connections to Europe. However, there are some challenges to this plan. Let’s find out.

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Wizz Air’s new base in Abu Dhabi means that the vast Indian market is within reach for the low-cost airline. Photo: Wizz Air

Eying

It’s been just over six months since Wizz Air Abu Dhabi took its inaugural flight. The airline’s strategic location in the Middle East means that it is only a few hours away from India, a rapidly growing international market. While its focus has been on Europe and the Gulf, for now, that doesn’t mean it’s not eying India.

In an exclusive interview with Simple Flying, Wizz Air CCO George Michalopoulos spoke about the Indian market, saying,

“Abu Dhabi is in a really key strategic location between Europe, the Gulf region, Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. So, yes, I mean, you know, we are keen to operate all these markets really from Abu Dhabi. India specifically has its challenges but it is a very attractive market.”

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Wizz Air plans to use its Abu Dhabi base for India operations and not direct connections from Eastern Europe. Photo: Getty Images

Indeed, India’s price-sensitive market means that low-cost airlines dominate the landscape both domestically and internationally. Wizz Air’s entry would mean one more competitor on the bustling UAE-India market but also open the door to ultra-low-cost connections to Europe, a sorely lacking feature in the market currently.

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Regulatory

However, it’s not as easy to break into the Indian market. In addition to operational and market challenges, regulatory hurdles pose an issue for Wizz Air. On this matter, Michalopoulos said,

“India specifically being the challenge with that market, obviously, it’s a very attractive market, but it has had its regulatory restrictions. So we’ll have to see how we can work those out.”

The UAE-India market is already saturated, and the entry of a new ULCC could face opposition from the government and airlines. Photo: Wizz Air

The regulatory issues being alluded to here are several. With nine airlines already operating flights between the countries, the market is quickly reaching a saturation point. As the pandemic decimates traffic, it will be years before airlines can make a full recovery internationally.

Moreover, Indian airlines have made clear their opposition to the UAE’s flight allowances under the bilateral Air Services agreement, which it believes are too high, especially due to connections from Dubai and Abu Dhabi. At the same time, the UAE is pushing for an Open Skies agreement to remove flight allowances and allow unlimited routes.

Between all this, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi’s chances of getting permission to fly to India in the short term are slim. However, things could change rapidly in the coming years and open the door to the airline beginning flights.

Key

For Wizz Air, India is an important part of its plan to fly from its Abu Dhabi base. With Michalopoulos saying,

“But our plans from Abu Dhabi are really just, Europe, the Gulf, back up to Russia, and the Indian subcontinent. So we really want to be operating the whole region and the various continents.”

For now, Wizz Air is growing within the constraints of travel restrictions. However, as things normalize, expect to see India back on the map very quickly.

What do you think about Wizz Abu Dhabi flying to India? Will they succeed? Let us know in the comments!

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