Low-cost yet sustainable: Wizz Air's ambitious growth plan
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Interview: ‘Ultra low-cost yet sustainable’, Wizz Air reveals strategic growth plan

Interview: ‘Ultra low-cost yet sustainable’, Wizz Air reveals strategic growth plan

Gulf Business speaks to Yvonne Moynihan, chief corporate and ESG officer, Wizz Air as the aviation industry is called upon to chart a path to net zero

Marisha Singh
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi

Wizz Air is a young airline with big ambitions. From launching its first flight in 2004 using a leased aircraft to now commanding a fleet of 190 plus Airbus A320 family aircraft, the Budapest-based group has established itself as a formidable competitor in the ultra-low cost segment.

Over the past decade and a half, it has expanded its coverage to serve 51 countries across 190 destinations. As it has grown in fleet size and route coverage, it has diversified its customer journey by claiming to be the most environmentally sustainable airline globally.

The airline says, “As a result of the numerous fuel-saving initiatives and constant modernization of our technology, we are proud to have one of the lowest emission intensity rates in the European aviation industry…Moving into the 2023 Financial Year, there was a continued progress as passenger load factors further improved, consequently leading to a reduction in emissions intensity, reaching 53.8 g per passenger per kilometer – the lowest ever carbon intensity, reported by Wizz Air for a 12-month period.”

Gulf Business caught up with Yvonne Moynihan, chief corporate and ESG officer, Wizz Air as the aviation industry is called upon to chart a path to net zero.

Image credit: Supplied
Yvonne Moynihan, chief corporate and ESG officer, Wizz Air

Q. Could you shed light on how Wizz Air, as a low-cost operator, approaches sustainability, particularly concerning profitability versus sustainability?

We like to say we’re sustainable by design and low cost and low carbon.

Our investment in the A321neo aircraft, the most efficient narrow-body aircraft, has allowed us to achieve the lowest emission intensity results globally, an award we’re proud of. With over half of our fleet being A321neos, we benefit from increased capacity, carrying 239 seats compared to Boeing Max’s 180-185. Our young fleet and focus on neo engines contribute to our sustainability.

Q. Could you share your approach toward the goal of net zero by 2050? Is this seen as a timeline or a part of your operational strategy?

It’s a roadmap we update based on available technology.

Our 2030 goal is a 25 per cent emissions reduction to reach 43 grams of CO2 per passenger kilometer. We also have targets for social diversity, noise pollution, and governance. Our strategy involves fleet renewal, procuring sustainable aviation fuel, transitioning to hydrogen, and measures like improved air traffic management and carbon market mechanisms.

Q. How do you approach fleet expansion, especially in different regions?

We have strategies for Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Our goal is to expand to 500 aircraft by 2030, currently at about 191, with 30-40 deliveries yearly. We have 47 XLR aircraft on order, which will enable unique long-range operations for a low-cost operator.

We acknowledge competition, but our focus on low fares and sustainability distinguishes us. While full-service carriers cater to a different segment, the sustainability-conscious customer prefers us due to our lower carbon emissions.

Q. What’s your strategy regarding carbon offsetting as a sustainability practice?

We don’t include offsetting in our strategy. Measures like the EU Emissions Trading Scheme incentivise investment in sustainable aviation fuel, a more effective strategy than offsetting.

Q. Regarding sustainable aviation fuel, could you elaborate on your investments and strategies?

We follow a portfolio approach—offtake agreements with fuel producers, investments in startups in the US and UK, and advocacy with governments. We’re working with Hungary and Austria on feasibility studies for sustainable aviation fuel production.

Q. What are Wizz Air’s key sustainability practices and future strategies?

Our fleet renewal and soft strategy will continue. Beyond our core strategies of fleet renewal and the sustainable aviation fuel approach, we’ve implemented a novel programme focusing on embedding sustainability within our local networks.

We’ve initiated the appointment of sustainability ambassadors across our bases and offices globally. These ambassadors, numbering 22 across our network, including representatives in the UAE, are volunteers committed to fostering a culture of sustainability within our organization.

The role of these ambassadors is multifaceted. They actively engage colleagues to raise awareness about sustainability initiatives and encourage participation in environmental efforts. These efforts involve not only data collection but also support local sustainability projects, which are vetted and approved by a central sustainability team.

This programme has received an overwhelming response, with numerous colleagues enthusiastically volunteering to be part of it. The ambassadors have already initiated impactful actions like beach cleanings, forest clearances, and various initiatives aimed at spreading awareness about sustainability practices.

The programme reflects our commitment to sustainability at a grassroots level. It encourages active participation from within the organisation, driving initiatives that align with our broader sustainability goals. By empowering our employees to champion sustainability efforts, we create a more comprehensive and impactful approach toward achieving our sustainability objectives.

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