Wizz Air hails growth outside core central European markets

Wizz Air is seeing growth outside of its core central European markets as it expands its reach across the continent.

Airline president Robert Carey told the World Aviation Festival in London yesterday that he was “pretty excited about where things are going”.

Asked about the Covid-19 situation and restrictions being imposed in eastern Europe from last month, he said there was an impact but that demand has come back.

But he said the carrier is seeing “nice development in new markets as well. We are now the third largest airline in Italy and continue to expand in the UK.”

The carrier also announced significant expansion plans for routes out of Ukraine in October and Carey said this was giving the airline a more diverse range of markets.

He said load factors last summer were back to approaching 2019 levels at around 84% and that it was optimistic of a full recovery in the summer of 2022.

By next summer Wizz Air expects to be flying a full fleet of 170 aircraft, representing 60% more capacity than it operated pre-Covid.

Wizz Air has seen resilience in the central and eastern European markets where the majority of its business (65%) is workers moving around and visiting friends and family.

Following the emergence of the omicron variant of Covid, Carey said it’s been an “interesting last four of five days”. But he said this was “par for the course” over the last 18 months.

“It’s been a rollercoaster,” he said.

Asked about the potential for consolidation in the aviation sector, Carey said he would not be drawn on potential M&A activity and that the carrier’s focus was on organic growth.

“Of course we are going to stay in tune with anything that may come up in the market and we have done that in the past. But we are firmly focussed on the organic path,” he said.

Carey described Wizz Air as one of the leading carriers in terms of its financial stability, saying it is only one of four globally still with an investment grade credit rating.

He said the financial impact of shortening lead in times is being monitored. “It seems that every week we are getting one day closer to departure.

“It keeps moving forward as customers really want to wait and make sure they can travel to their destination and not get stuck when they get there.”

A pick up in bookings is expected in the peak booking period after the new year, but this ongoing lack of confidence will have an impact on bookings, added Carey.

Wizz Air has been moving away from hedging its fuel saying it makes no sense to give away 4% to 8% of value to the banks to forward buy fuel.

Carey said this bring “good discipline” to decision making and because Wizz Air operates one of the youngest fleets in the sector it benefits from 20% to 25% lower fuel consumption.

“That’s a pretty healthy hedge we are working with. The fuel cycle goes up and down and that’s just something we have to deal with.”

Meanwhile, Wizz Air announced that 90% of its crew members are now vaccinated, following a December 1 deadline requiring flight and cabin crew to be vaccinated or get regularly tested at their own cost, unless they recently recovered from Covid-19.

The policy does not mandate vaccination but crew members who are not jabbed now have to cover the cost of their own tests.

Unvaccinated crew members, who can provide medical proof of exemption, will be able take antigen/PCR tests on a regular basis, the airline said.

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