Like many airlines, ultra-low-cost carrier Wizz Air is preparing to ramp up its schedules for the coming summer. However, several factors are hindering its recovery plans for the coming months. Its Chief Commercial Officer revealed today that uncertainty regarding short-term changes to restrictions is causing particular concern.
Concerns about short-term changes
According to Wizz Air‘s CCO, George Michalopoulos, this concern is a factor for both the airline and its passengers. Speaking today at the Routes Reconnected event, he appealed for consistency when it comes to travel restrictions.
Being an airline based across Europe, Wizz Air is subject to different legislation in dozens of countries. Michalopoulos explained that:
“You have different approaches from different governments. Some governments will, at 10 or 11pm, announce a change in restrictions from the next morning. I think the majority of European routes today are either restricted or there are strong advisories against travel. So this is having a massive impact.”
A different situation this summer
Wizz Air had a relatively strong summer last year. Indeed, its capacity in August 2020 even exceeded the 80% mark. However, it was also a summer that saw frequent changes to travel restrictions, often stranding people abroad, or preventing them from going there.
This summer, however, Michalopoulos feels that it is important for governments to acknowledge the advances made in fighting and containing the virus since then, particularly in the case of vaccinations. He stated that:
“I think governments need to acknowledge that large parts of the population are now being vaccinated or have been vaccinated. So I think the number of infections today is not going to have the same impact on population and hospitalizations as it did six or nine months ago. And I think they really need to be factoring that in their decision-making.”
Lagging behind the US
Michalopoulos also attributed the inconsistencies in policy between European countries as a reason why the region is lagging behind the US as far as its recovery is concerned. Regarding short-term restriction changes made by European countries, he added that:
“I think this is the reason why you see the US operating at around 70% capacity, and Europe is less than half of that. You could argue that the US is slightly ahead in vaccinations, but that’s not down to vaccinations, it’s down to the restrictions. That’s fundamentally the biggest issue we face.”
Even where countries have been transparent about upcoming changes to legislation, Michalopoulos is frustrated that there has still been minimal clarity. For example, the UK is set to introduce a three-tier ‘traffic light’ system on May 17th.
However, the British government has not confirmed which countries will be in which tiers. This has created significant uncertainty among prospective passengers, putting many people off making bookings for the time being. Overall, Wizz hopes that greater clarity and harmonization between governments will help to establish a clearer framework of travel restrictions, so as to reduce obstacles for aviation’s recovery in Europe.
Are concerns about short-term changes to restrictions affecting your upcoming travel plans? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.