Wizz Air adds capacity in Southeast Europe

Wizz Air adds capacity in Southeast Europe
Wizz Air CEO József Váradi christens a new Airbus A321 in Bucharest.
By bne IntelliNews May 20, 2016

Budapest-based low-cost airline announced on May 19 it will add new aircraft and open new routes in Bucharest and Sofia. The airline’s CEO József Váradi also confirmed it is interested in entering the Albanian market once new airports are opened.

Following its IPO in 2015, Wizz Air has embarked on an expansion programme, including ordering 110 new Airbus 321neo aircraft in 2015, to be delivered between 2019 and 2024. The contract is worth $13.7bn at list prices, and will bring Wizz Air’s total number of aircraft to over 160 by 2024, Váradi said in an interview with bne IntelliNews in January.

Wizz Air will add an additional aircraft and invest a further €100mn in Bucharest, as it adds one of its new Airbus 321s at its base in the Romanian capital, Váradi told journalists at an event marking the airline’s 12th anniversary at Bucharest airport on May 19. This will bring its total investment in Bucharest to €900mn.

“Since the beginning we have carried 24m passengers to and from Romania on 116 routes to 18 countries. We have essentially become a national carrier of Romania,” said Váradi.

From November 2016, the new plane will be deployed in Bucharest, bringing the number of Wizz Air aircraft in the Romanian capital to nine. It will operate on the new Bucharest-Tenerife route due to be launched this autumn as well as increasing the frequency on existing routes.

The new plane at Bucharest will be one of the new A321s, which have an extra 50 seats compared to the existing Airbus 321s, bringing down the cost per passenger.

“These cost only 15% more to fly but have 25% more seats. This cost saving will be passed on to our customers,” said Váradi. “We are matching Ryanair’s cost base in terms of unit costs and ours will decline after the launch of the 321s. Very soon we will become the lowest cost airline in the whole of Europe.”

Earlier this year, Wizz Air opened a new base at Sibiu in Transilvania, launched international flights from Sucaeva. Another base will be opened in Iasi later in the year.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Bulgaria, the airline will also a new plane to its Sofia base, bringing the total to seven, from December 2016. The new plane will be deployed on new routes from the Bulgarian capital to Nuremberg, Basel and Doncaster Sheffield, as well as increasing frequencies on existing routes.

Váradi also confirmed that Wizz Air is interested in the Albanian market.

“We are absolutely interested in Albania, where we are in discussions with airports and the Albanian government,” he said in response to a question from bne IntelliNews. “We look forward to the development of the country’s infrastructure.”

Earlier this year, the Albanian government ended Tirana International Airport’s exclusive rights to international flights to and from the country. A second airport, at Kukes, is expected to open this year, opening the way for low-cost airlines to start operating in Albania.

Váradi noted there were “some issues” with entering the Albanian market, but that he hoped the airline would enter Albania when they are resolved.

“We have a high interest in going to Albania, but this ... depends on more reasonable costs. We are not there yet but we are working on it.”

Rival carrier Ryanair is also interested in Albania, Transport Minister Edmond Haxhinasto said in April according to local media reports.

Elsewhere in Southeast Europe, Wizz Air announced on May 12 it would start flights from Montenegro, offering two routes from Podgorica to Milan Bergamo and Munich Memmingen from August. It also opened a base in Tuzla in Bosnia & Herzegovina in 2015.

Wizz Air launched its first flight in May 2004. It currently flies over 420 routes from 25 bases in the CEE region, and carried more than 20mn passengers in the last 12 months.