Wizz Air Expands In Western Europe As Crisis Brings Opportunities
Wizz Air is adding new flights between Britain and Spain and opening a base in Italy as it sees opportunities arising from the coronavirus crisis, which is forcing competitors to contract.
Wizz's expansion comes as rival airlines are announcing job cuts and shrinking their fleets to survive the pandemic, which for the last ten weeks has shut down air travel, leaving them struggling without revenues.
But Wizz has a strong balance sheet and, while it has cut 19% of its staff, it is sticking with plans to grow its fleet, and was one of the first airlines to restart flights.
"We are one of the very few airlines in Europe which can deliver growth capacity when everyone else is cutting and contracting capacity," Wizz chief executive Jozsef Varadi said in an interview.
Wizz said that it is opening a new base at Milan Malpensa and announced new routes between London Luton and Spanish holiday resorts, taking the fight directly to Luton-headquartered easyJet.
EasyJet has a strong position flying British holiday-makers to Spain. It said last week that it will cut its aircraft numbers and axe 30% of its staff.
Varadi said that Wizz will retain its primarily eastern and central European focus, but that it would be opportunistic in western Europe.
"Many airports are approaching us," Varadi said.
He said that Wizz is continuing talks with London Gatwick about expanding there, and that it believes that its low ticket prices mean that it could stimulate demand despite forecasts that the travel slump will last years.
Wizz is also opening new bases at Larnaca in Cyprus, Lviv in Ukraine and Tirana in Albania.