Yesterday, Wizz Air UK shared that it is opening a base at Cardiff Airport in Wales. Following this exciting announcement, Simple Flying had the opportunity to speak with the airline’s managing director, Owain Jones, about the carrier’s plans. Altogether, the firm is showing its intention to grow its presence across the United Kingdom this decade.
Plenty of potential
Jones emphasizes that there are several opportunities arising in the UK as the initial impact of the pandemic wears off. The fact that quarantine requirements are being reduced if passengers have a negative test after five days of arriving is encouraging for the airline. Nonetheless, the company continues to press governments for a test-prior-to-travel regime. However, now there the country is rolling out a vaccine against the virus, there is great potential once again.
Wizz Air feels that by the time April and the Easter holidays come around, there will be greater demand for travel. So, there will be a much busier schedule across the UK for most of the year compared to 2019.
Amid Brexit, Wizz has been spending almost four years getting ready for the transition of leaving the European Union. Notably, the firm formed Wizz Air UK into an airline that is going to grow into a larger presence in the market. Jones shares that the last two base expansions at Doncaster and Cardiff are pushing the company outside the core London market. So, the business is now is becoming a significant carrier in the country.
“As you know, we’ve made no secret of our desire to expand in the UK. This is now, since the start of the pandemic, our third new base that we’ve announced in the UK, and we’re really bringing Wizz to a market which is very underpenetrated in terms of low-cost capacity,” Jones told Simple Flying.
“You have three major cities within an hour’s drive – Newport, Cardiff, and Swansea – a catchment area of maybe two, two and a half million people who, until now, if they wanted low-cost airfares, had to go across the bridge into England.”
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Filling the void
Altogether, the airline is excited to be the first low-cost carrier to be based at Cardiff Airport. Jones adds that Wizz is fortunate that a lot of airports seek its business. Now, the company is looking at the opportunities that it wanted to push forward a little sooner than it was able to, and Cardiff is one of those. The airport has been on its radar for some time, and having the capacity in the system now enables the operator to come into a new market that it feels is crying out for good quality service.
Across Europe, the carrier is noticing airports that have seen their passenger numbers collapse during the pandemic. Hubs are witnessing a downturn in activity while their operating airlines are struggling financially and are finding it hard to get going again. Therefore, Wizz is ready to take on the task.
Ready to expand further
Wizz Air recently expressed its irritation with the present slot waivers in place by regulators. As one of the few operators that are continuing to grow, the firm wants 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. This has left Wizz in a frustrating situation as it can’t take on new opportunities at the London site. Jones explained to Simple Flying why it’s valuable to have a presence at Gatwick.
“I think, for us, Gatwick is the natural counterpart to Luton where we are the largest airline group operating. Gatwick is very tightly controlled, as you know, in terms of slots. The unfortunate thing for Gatwick is that a large number of those slots are held by airlines which have either said publicly that they’re going to pull out or significantly reduce their presence.” Jones said in the interview.
“But at the same time, they’re seeking every way to hang onto slots to prop up their balance sheets. We think that’s an abuse of the slot process. We stand willing and ready and able to expand at Gatwick should those slots become available for us to base aircraft there.”
As a group, the business is the fourth largest airline operating out of the UK. Before the global health crisis, it carried just under ten million passengers a year. So, the company feels that it is time to take advantage of the opportunities that are being presented.
What are your thoughts about Wizz Air’s UK expansion? Are you excited about the company’s progress? Let us know what you think of the airline in the comment section.