Low-cost carrier Wizz Air aims to have 100 aircraft possibly serving GCC markets in the next 15 years, its CEO Joszef Varadi said.
Speaking to aviation industry consultant John Strickland, during the Arabian Travel Market Virtual, Varadi asserted the carrier’s impending plan to operate out of Abu Dhabi.
“If you look at what we’ve been able to achieve in the EU, we managed to grow our fleet to 100 aircraft over the last 15 years and we should be able to do the same thing in Abu Dhabi,” he said.
“You should be looking at our platform, not necessarily just Abu Dhabi, we want to serve the UAE and possibly the broader GCC markets,” he added.
Wizz Air employs over 4,500 people, and flew 40 million passengers to 151 airports in 44 countries, on 710 routes last year.
Operating 120 Airbus aircraft, it holds an option to buy a further 20 Airbus A321XLR aircraft.
Despite the pandemic, customers especially the younger lot were still motivated to travel but the inconsistent response from different governments to the situation hasn’t supported the industry, prompting the need for a framework of regulations, the CEO noted.
“Airports did well after 9/11 introducing heightened security measures and we need similar measures regarding health and safety. While airports and airlines are quiet it is easier to practice social distancing, but not when we start to become busier,” he said.
Pertinent to onboard health and safety, Varadi believes the industry is stepping up but measures such as blocking the middle seat or implementing onboard distancing, is impractical.
“There is no scientific evidence to suggest any passengers have contracted the virus while flying. In fact, the air filtration onboard aircraft is comparable with an intensive care unit,” he said.
Regardless, the CEO remained positive of the current situation: “It’s all about liquidity and what that provides to your business. If we do not fly a single passenger for the next 24 months we will still be in business, so we are well positioned to take advantage of the situation.”
However, the ensuing recession will also create greater challenges for the industry than the outbreak itself, he added.
Short-haul, low-cost carriers such as Wizz Air will be in a better position to recover initially, as passengers would want to downgrade from legacy carriers for cost reasons.
In December last year, Wizz Air announced plans to launch a new discount carrier in Abu Dhabi.
Known as Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, the deal struck between Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company (ADDH) and Wizz Air Holdings is for the new airline to be 51 per cent Abu Dhabi owned.
On March 2, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi confirmed that it would take to the skies in the second half of 2020.
Read more: Wizz Air Abu Dhabi to launch in H2 2020