Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air is built on a model of near-constant expansion. Earlier in the year, it took one of its most significant steps in terms of network growth by opening a new base in Abu Dhabi, UAE. This has opened the door to several Asian destinations, and, according to its CEO, it is interested in extending its network as far as India.
Looking to the east
Speaking this morning at the virtual World Aviation Festival, Wizz Air CEO József Váradi confirmed his interest in serving India from its new Abu Dhabi base in the future. Drawing on the existing heavy traffic flows between the UAE and India, he stated
“We are looking at India as a destination market at this point in time. From a UAE perspective, India is a huge market with a huge passenger flow”.
This would unlock a myriad of exciting opportunities for the carrier, which has sustained growth even amid the challenges of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. However, Váradi was keen to point out that, if Wizz were to enter the Indian market, it would not be opening a new base or subsidiary airline there. He continued:
“If [the] question is whether we are looking at basing the airline in India, I [wouldn’t] say that we have an imminent priority like that.
“We have no plans to enter India with an airline, or to build an operating base. But we are looking at India as a destination.”
A crucial market for UAE aviation
As Wizz Air looks to grow its presence in Abu Dhabi, it is understandable that India would be high on its priority list as a destination from its new base. After all, there are very strong aviation ties between these two nations. Indeed, as Simple Flying explored yesterday, India is the UAE’s most-served country in terms of seats on scheduled services.
Similarly, the region of South Asia is the second-most widely served area from the UAE, with just the Middle East ahead of it. Indeed, of the UAE’s 106 routes to South Asia, 62 of these serve India alone. As such, the recent coronavirus surge in the country may pose a significant threat to aviation in the UAE, as travel restrictions would reduce these numbers.
In the medium term, Boeing has predicted that it will be 2023 before Indian aviation on an international level fully recovers from the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. Nonetheless, the US manufacturer is confident of longer-term growth in the Indian market. Indeed, it predicts that the country will need 2,200 extra jets within the next two decades.
A new home for the A321XLR
Váradi also expressed his excitement at the prospect of deploying some of Wizz’s 20 ordered Airbus A321XLRs at its new Abu Dhabi base. The aircraft’s impressive range, as well as the UAE’s location, makes for a winning combination in terms of serving new markets.
The airline is set to receive its first A321XLR in 2023, and its CEO claims that “if you put that aircraft into Abu Dhabi, and draw a radius [of] that range, you’re going to be capturing 5 billion people.” This gives the carrier a huge catchment area, and it seems fair to say that India is likely to be far from the only new market it dips into with the aircraft.
What do you make of Wizz Air’s potential Indian expansion? Would you be likely to fly on its low-cost services from Abu Dhabi to the world’s second-most populous country? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.