Business Class Is Unethical And Should Be Banned: Wizz Air CEO

Wizz Air has posted record first half profits of some €317.5m, and expects to continue to grow profits over the second half of 2019. During the earnings call for this report, CEO József Váradi has slammed legacy airlines for operating unethical, carbon-intensive business class flights, and even goes so far as to say they should be banned.

Wizz Air
Wizz CEO says business should be banned. Photo: Wizz Air

The Wizz CEO believes business class is unethical

In today’s earnings call conversation, CEO of Wizz Air József Váradi has slammed legacy carriers for operating business class flights. He points out that airlines like BA and KLM, despite all their carbon neutral promises, still perform poorly in terms of carbon emissions due to their business model. During the call, he said,

“Just look at business costs. Business costs is one of the diverse products you can bring to the market with regard to environmental impact. I mean, a business passenger emits 2x or 3x more than an economy-class passenger.

“Look at connecting traffic compared to point-to-point. When you connect, you’re going to be taking 2 flights. So your impact on the environment is going to be at least twice as bad compared to a single flight, a point-to-point flight.”

Wizz Air Interior
Wizz Air operates all of their aircraft in an all-economy, low-cost configuration with some extra legroom seats. Photo: Wizz Air

As a low-cost airline, Wizz does not have any business class. It also does not operate any connecting flights, being a wholly point to point airline without any hub and spoke type operations. This, says Varadi, is key to Wizz’s ability to keep costs low and carbon emissions lower.

Of legacy carriers, he went on to say,

“Inherently, their business model is environmentally polluting. I mean, flying a lot of business class, flying a lot of connecting passengers, they are affecting the environment in a bad way.”

Business class should be banned

The CEO of Wizz is quoted by TTG Media as going a step further than this, and actually calling for business class to be banned on shorter flights. He is reported to have said,

“Business class should be banned. These passengers account for twice the carbon footprint of an economy passenger, and the industry is guilty of preserving an inefficient and archaic model. A rethink is long overdue, and we call on fellow airlines to commit to a total ban on business class travel for any flight under five hours.”

Air France A330 business
Business class can fit fewer passengers, therefore is more carbon intensive per pax. Photo: Air France

While this would be unlikely to be popular with full service carriers, he does raise a good point. In today’s climate of flight shaming and environmental concern, short haul business class is beginning to look rather indulgent.

Wizz is more carbon efficient than Ryanair

Varadi was keen to point out how well Wizz is doing on its own environmental efforts. He claims to operate the greenest airline in Europe, and attributes this success to the airline’s use of brand new aircraft such as the A321neo. In the earnings call, he said,

“We are emitting 56 grams, that’s 15% lower than Ryanair and around 60%, 70% lower than the legacy carriers.”

Business Class Is Unethical And Should Be Banned: Wizz Air CEO
Wizz is still updating its fleet with many new neos still to come. Photo: Wizz Air

Right now, around 50% of Wizz seats are operated by the highly efficient A321neo. Varadi says that this offers a 20% lower cost, including fuel burn, than the A320. However, Wizz is not done yet. With 270 aircraft on order, all neo variants, the airline is expecting to continue driving down its carbon footprint in the years to come. Varadi said,

“As we continue to update and upgrade our fleet and with the induction of more and more A321neos, that number will continue to decrease, and we are expecting and targeting our CO2 emission to be down by 30% in 2030.”