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Wizz Air CEO Expects Smaller Airline Industry After Pandemic

By Dave Simpson

The world will have a smaller airline industry as a result of the coronavirus crisis with many privately funded carriers set to go under and governments throwing "good money after bad" to keep national champions afloat, Wizz Air CEO Jozsef Varadi has said.

Worst hit will be traditional carriers relying on a hub-and-spoke network and business traffic, but Wizz expects demand for its own cheap fares and direct routes to snap back quickly once the pandemic fades, the Hungarian airline's co-founder said.

Wizz aims to widen a gap in unit costs compared to the rest of the airline industry thanks to regular deliveries of new Airbus aircraft, Varadi added.

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Co-founded in 2003 by Varadi, who is a former head of Hungary's defunct national carrier Malev, Wizz Air is one of Europe's largest budget carriers with a focus primarily on central and eastern parts of the continent.

Speaking in a webinar hosted by the UK-based Aviation Club, Varadi said, "As far as Wizz is concerned, the moment COVID falls away I think we will be back to 2019 levels."

Wizz is currently operating on half normal traffic, he said.

While aircraft deliveries are down sharply as airlines struggle to preserve cash, Wizz Air has continued to add to its Airbus fleet during the crisis. Together with India's IndiGo, it makes up approximately a quarter of Airbus deliveries.

Finance remains available for the small number of airlines like Wizz that have investment-grade status, Varadi said.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi And Potential Other Foreign Ventures

He also said that Wizz is open to other foreign ventures after forming a startup in Abu Dhabi and expanding in the UK, where it will continue to invest after Brexit.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, which is a joint venture between Wizz Air and Abu Dhabi state holding company ADQ, has received an air operator certificate, though its launch has been hampered by a coronavirus ban on foreign visitors.

News by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.

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Enjoy full access to Hospitality Ireland, our weekly email news digest, all website and app content, and every digital issue.
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