A report out today says that Wizz Air is one of the fastest airlines to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and is already flying at 80% of its 2019 capacity. However, the airline has given warning that its rapid recovery from the crisis could be set back by renewed COVID-19 warnings and travel restrictions across Europe.
Wizz Air warns that travel restrictions are slowing recovery
A Reuters report on August 25 says that Wizz Air is currently flying at 80% of last year’s capacity as it emerges from the coronavirus crisis. The Hungarian low-cost carrier has rapidly expanded from eastern into western Europe over recent years and has now shown a remarkable rate of recovery from COVID-19.
But the airline has said that its recovery could stall as some European countries have reimposed travel restrictions as coronavirus cases have risen in many areas. After more robust ticket sales in July, August has seen numbers fall again. Wizz Air said that, under the present circumstances, 80% capacity was as high as it could expect, and that figure could easily drop back. The airline’s CEO, Jozsef Varadi, told Reuters,
“From here on, either you’re going to be able to hold the line or somewhat come down on capacity.” He added, “we are not immune from the short-term issues.”
Low-cost rival Ryanair had planned to operate at up to 70% capacity by October, but last week said that it was scaling back those plans. Another rival, easyJet, is even more pessimistic and, by the fourth quarter of 2020, only anticipates flying at 40% of 2019’s capacity.
Wizz Air continues UK expansion
Despite the gloomier outlook and the UK’s current quarantine regulations, Wizz Air has said that it is not reconsidering its plans for long-term expansion in Britain. Just two weeks ago, the carrier announced that it is opening a second base at Doncaster Sheffield Airport, increasing its number of destinations from DSA to 17.
The ambitious airline has plans to open a base at London Gatwick Airport for 20 aircraft, and the current travel restrictions have not changed that. However, its Gatwick ambitions may depend on the European Commission dropping its waiver of the use-it-or-lose-it rule for airport slots, which is in place until October.
The EU introduced the waiver to help airlines struggling with grounded flights during the global pandemic. While many carriers are calling for an extension of the waiver until March 2021, Wizz Air wants it to be scrapped. The airline says that prolonging the waiver is against free competition and protects airlines with weaker business models.
Growth in the face of adversity
While most airlines have been struggling to survive the COVID-19 crisis, Wizz Air has opened new bases in Abu Dhabi, Larnaca in Cyprus, Milan and Tirana. The company also launched over 200 new routes.
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Along with most other airlines, Wizz Air suffered heavy losses in the first quarter of 2020, but it ended the period with nearly €1.6 billion in its coffers. The airline also increased its fleet to 123 aircraft with the delivery of two more A320neo planes in the first quarter.
How do you think Wizz Air has managed to come back so strongly compared to many other airlines?