General Industry

Wizz Appoints Industry Veteran To New Deputy Chair Role; Considering A Saudi Operating License

By Dave Simpson
Wizz Appoints Industry Veteran To New Deputy Chair Role; Considering A Saudi Operating License

Budget airline Wizz Air has appointed industry veteran and non-executive director Stephen Johnson to the newly created role of deputy chair, the company has said.


It has also set up a panel on safety, security and operational compliance, partly to oversee the group's expansion plans, to be chaired by Charlotte Pedersen.

The moves, which took effect on 26 July, come at a time when Wizz is fighting surging costs and airlines across Europe struggle with labour strife this summer, when the rapid recovery in tourism has led to staff shortages and demand by employees for higher wages.

"The addition of the new safety, security and operational compliance committee will reinforce the group's strong safety culture and enhance oversight of the group's expansion plans," Chairman William Franke said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Wizz said its finance chief Jourik Hooghe would step down and would be replaced by Ian Malin, who will be joining the carrier on 1 October.


Europe's Wizz Air Considering A Saudi Operating License

The above news was followed by news that European budget carrier Wizz Air is considering basing an airline in Saudi Arabia as part an agreement signed with the government this year to develop the kingdom's aviation sector, its chief executive said in an interview.

Wizz Air, which said in May it would explore opportunities in Saudi Arabia, announced it was launching direct flights to Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam from 11 European cities starting early next year, including from Rome, Milan and Vienna.

"The scope of ... exploring opportunities in the country may go beyond being an inbound carrier and may also involve making direct investments," CEO Jozsef Varadi told Reuters from Riyadh.

He said that included considering applying for an Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) in Saudi Arabia to base an airline there, without saying when a decision could be made on the AOC.

A Saudi license could allow a subsidiary or joint venture to operate domestic services in the kingdom, which has a population of about 36 million. It could also operate international flights that start in Saudi Arabia, opening up access to new markets.


Wizz Air, whose main operations are in central and eastern Europe, has AOCs in Hungary and the United Kingdom. Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, a branded joint venture between the airline and an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund, has a United Arab Emirates AOC.

Saudi Arabia liberalised its tourism industry in 2019, aiming to make it significantly easier for foreigners to visit the kingdom, which had been relatively closed off for many decades.

The move to open up the country is part of a push under its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to develop the economy into a regional trade hub and lessen its dependence on oil.

"This country is on the move. The country is transforming itself. It's very ambitious ... we want to be part of it," Varadi said.

He also said despite there being a significant commercial risk in launching the flights, he believed there would be strong demand for travel from Europe to Saudi Arabia, and from the kingdom to Europe.

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