Wizz Air UK is eyeing up the possibility of flying to Russia from its UK base at Luton Airport.
If you are not familiar with Wizz Air UK you are not alone as the low-cost airline was only set up in 2018 with a fleet of 10 Airbus aircraft. The airline’s Hungarian parent company set up the UK subsidiary to make sure Wizz Air retained its access to the UK following Brexit.
Now considered to be Central and Eastern Europe’s largest budget airline, the Budapest based carrier is considering expanding operations into Russia from the UK.
Can Wizz Air UK make flights to Russia work?
While airlines love flying over the world’s largest country on routes from Europe to the Far East, flying to airports in Russia has traditionally not been simple.
An example of a flight between the UK and the Far East and is Virgin Atlantic flight #VS250. Hugging the coast of the Netherlands and Denmark before crossing the Baltic Sea flight VS250 enters Russian air space from Estonia.
The bulk of the aircraft’s journey is now over Russia, flying in between St Petersburg and Moscow, across the Urals and into Siberia before entering Chinese airspace over Mongolia. While these Trans-Russian flights are profitable for airlines, flying to Russia itself has proved problematic.
easyJet pulled out of Russia after just two years
Virgin Atlantic boss Richard Branson must be secretly glad that his airline lost out to easyJet when slots opened up at Moscow.
Despite a lot of fanfare and optimism, the flights from London and Manchester to Moscow lasted only two years until easyJet pulled the plug. Citing a devaluation of the Russian Rouble and a tightening of the visa process, easyJet had learned an expensive lesson about flying to Russia.
Since easyJet ceased flying to Russia, the red tape involved with securing a visa has only gotten worse. Now everyone now needs to have their fingerprints taken at the Russian Embassy.
Wizz Air is confident that they can make a profit in Russia
Despite the horror stories and a Russian economy that you could hardly call robust, Wizz Air UK managing director Owain Jones thinks there is money to be made.
He is so confident that he is launching not one, but two flights to Russia from Luton. Flights are starting on October 1st, 2019. They will depart every afternoon from Luton to Moscow and late at night to St. Petersburg.
“We will be the only UK carrier flying to St. Petersburg and on both new routes”.
Travel correspondent for The Independent, Simon Calder, managed to get a hold of Mr. Jones while the former Solicitor was holidaying in Crete. He asked him why he thought Wizz Air would be successful when other airlines had failed.
The answer he gave to Caulder was that plenty of passengers want to fly between the biggest cities in Eastern Europe (Moscow and St Petersburg) and the largest in Western Europe (London).
“There are significant traffic flows that go to London, but which use indirect routes,” he said.
(By indirect routes we assume he is referring to low-cost flights where you change planes rather than direct routes that can cost hundreds of pounds).
“Wizz is an extremely rational airline. We are not going to start flying unless we are sure we will make a profit.”
Time will tell if the Wizz Air boss is right, but he certainly nailed it when he said that some passengers are willing to shun high-cost direct flights in order to save money.
What do you think; can Wizz Air make it work?