Ultra-low cost carrier Wizz Air is one of the few airlines in Europe to expand its network and to add more routes in pandemic times. Niche positioning as a leading Central European carrier is behind Wizz Air’s ongoing success story.
It defies all forecasts: in the gloom and doom of the year 2020 for air transport, there is at least one carrier in Europe that managed almost well: Hungary-based Wizz Air. Like other air carriers, Wizz Air lost business due to the pandemic. Total passengers for the airline stood last year at 16.66 million compared to 98.8 million the year before. This represented a drop of 58.1% on a year-to-year basis. The yearly average load factor reached 70.85% compared to 93.4% in 2019.
However, the performance was relatively good compared to the general performance of all European airlines. According to the International Air Transport Association, European carriers saw a 73.7% traffic decline in 2020 versus 2019. While capacity fell by 66.3%, the load factor of all European airlines decreased 18.8 percentage points to 66.8%.
The relatively good performance is due to the continuous expansion of Wizz Air in Europe. The airline operated at the end of 2020 out of 39 cities. This represented 14 more bases than a year earlier. In a presentation for investors, Wizz Air highlights the fact that it was the only low-cost carrier to expand last year as competition such as Ryanair and Easyjet closed bases last year.
In Wizz Air network, Romania has the largest number of bases for the ultra-low-cost carrier with 7 cities. It is followed by Poland with 5 bases and the UK with 4. Although traffic is important from and to the UK, the bulk of Wizz Air’s activity remains in Central Europe.
The ultra-low-cost carrier operates from and to 26 cities of Central and Eastern Europe with a network covering Russia, Ukraine, Albania, Latvia or Moldavia among others.
Sarajevo will benefit of flights to nine new destinations this summer
Summer 2021 will see the addition of a new important base in Central Europe. After Tuzla in Bosnia Herzegovina, Sarajevo will be a Wizz Air base. Wizz Air was already serving the Bosnian capital out of Budapest.
By basing one Airbus A320 there from May, the ultra-low-cost carrier will link, on a regular scheduled basis, Sarajevo with nine European cities in seven countries: Brussels-Charleroi, Copenhagen, Dortmund, Eindhoven, Gothenburg, London-Luton, Memmingen, Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse and Paris-Beauvais.
The frequencies are expected to generate 250,000 seats on sale to Sarajevo in one year. Wizz Air will propose three frequencies per week to Basel-Mulhouse, Copenhagen and Dortmund. All other destinations will benefit of two weekly flights.
Bourgas in Bulgaria will become a seasonal base as the carrier will put one Airbus A320 aircraft between June 10 and September 12, 2021. Wizz Air will link Bourgas to six cities across Europe as well as to Tel Aviv in Israel.
However, Wizz Air largest new base in 2021 will take place in Palermo, Sicily. The carrier will base two Airbus A321 from June 2021. The airport is due to be linked to both international and domestic destinations.
In total, Wizz Air will launch from Palermo 11 new routes to ten cities: the Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse, Bologna, London-Luton, Milan-Malpensa, Pisa, Torino, Treviso, Verona, Brindisi and Cagliari. The carrier will offer a total of more than 1,000,000 additional seats on sale from Italy in 2021.
Wizz Air is also expanding from the Middle-East. last year, the carrier got a licence to start a subsidiary in Abu Dhabi. The new carrier, named Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, has a fleet of four aircraft flying to a dozen destinations in Europe and across the Mediterranean Sea.