London Luton was the first base for UK airline easyJet and has continued to be an important location for its services. However, it is no longer the biggest airline at the airport – that crown now belongs to the Wizz Air Group. Here’s the story of its rapid growth at the northern London airport.
Wizz Air is number one at Luton
Wizz Air has been flying to London Luton since 2005. While the airport has maintained a key position in the airline group’s western European network, it has become even more crucial during the pandemic travel downturn.
As easyJet began to pull back its capacity, Wizz Air ramped up its offering at the northern London airport. Speaking to Simple Flying during our recent webinar, Wizz Air Group COO George Michalopoulos noted that the Group is now the biggest airline at the airport. He said,
“When you look at Western Europe, we’ve been more opportunistic, stepping into the gaps that are there. In the UK, we’re now the number one player at Luton.”
It’s not only Luton where Wizz has either firmed up its position in a big way or begun new operations. Its opportunistic strategy has seen it moving into other positions in western Europe, filling the gaps as other airlines pulled back. The COO noted,
“When Lauda went down in Austria, we stepped in with the Vienna base. During the pandemic, because of the restrictions, demand was a bit thinner. So we had to thin out or network and spread a bit broader.”
It’s a strategy we’ve also seen in Italy, as the airline has ramped up its offering significantly in the wake of troubles for Alitalia. But for Luton, it’s a shift away from being a major base for easyJet, the first airport it launched from, as Wizz squeezes it out of its top position.
Luton domination by the numbers
In the past, the biggest airline at Luton was, by quite some measure, easyJet. In the year ending January 2019, easyJet was responsible for almost 50,000 flights out of LTN, with 8.4 million seats and over six billion available seat miles. Wizz had 34,000 flights, 6.7 seats and seven billion available seat miles.
In the year ending January 2020, the gap had begun to close. easyJet operated around 49,000 flights, with 8.5 million seats and over six billion available seat miles. Between Wizz Air and Wizz Air UK, the airline Group had around 40,000 flights, 8.3 million seats and over nine billion available seat miles.
Fast forward 12 months, and the situation looks very different. easyJet has pulled capacity significantly from the Luton market, with just 17,600 flights, three million seats and 2.4 billion available seat miles over the year to January 2021. In contrast, the Wizz Group has operated 33,700 flights, for seven million seats over eight billion available seat miles.
For this summer, the market is even more heavily weighted towards Wizz. Across Wizz Air and Wizz Air UK, the airline group has around 2,500 flights in July, compared to 1,190 for easyJet. In August, easyJet has ramped up somewhat, but still lags behind Wizz. The Wizz Group will operate 4,100 flights, whereas easyJet will fly 2,400.
For the Wizz Group, and notably for the Wizz Air UK subsidiary, Luton continues to be a key market. While easyJet will maintain a presence at the airport where it was born, it seems that the ULCC newcomer will dominate at this location in the coming years.