At a time when many airlines have been streamlining their operations, reducing both headcount and staff numbers, Wizz Air is announcing additions to its route network.
The low cost carrier, which operates mainly across Central and Eastern Europe, has announced it is to add Gatwick Airport, which will become its third UK base, alongside London Luton and the recently announced Doncaster Sheffield. The airline will allocate one Airbus A321 aircraft to the South London hub and will launch four new routes to leisure destinations in Greece, Italy, Spain and Malta from October 22, 2020.

Wizz Air started flying from Gatwick in 2016, and since then has carried almost 1 million passengers. With the creation of a new base at Gatwick, Wizz Air will offer passengers more affordable travel opportunities, with 450,000 seats per annum. The new routes will include popular destinations such as Athens, Naples, Lanzarote and Malta for the remainder of the year.

Rapid growth since April 2020

The addition of these new routes from Gatwick and Doncaster Sheffield represents significant growth of Wizz Air’s UK network, with the airline now operating 119 routes to 69 destinations from 11 UK airports. The two new Wizz Air UK bases form part of a period of rapid growth across the entire Wizz Air network, with expansion at Riga and Vilnius along with Bacău, Dortmund, Lviv, Larnaca, Milan-Malpensa, Tirana and Saint Petersburg. The airlines has launched more than 200 new routes across the network since April 2020.

With the airline currently operating at 77 per cent capacity, FINN talked to Wizz Air CEO József Váradi during a FIA Connect session on how the budget carrier has concentrated on its strategy of building a resilient business.

Airline’s cash reserves enable it to survive “for years”

Wizz Air had cash reserves of €1.5bn going into the crisis, most of which has been preserved and, unlike other airlines which have ran into problems just months after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the international travel network, the airline has said it could survive for a period of years.

Váradi explained the company’s resilient approach: “I am an economist and one of the first lessons you learn as an economist is that the world goes through economic cycles and, one day you might be up and on the other day you might be down and you have to survive as a business under all circumstances.”

Váradi added that financial resilience had been a “conscious decision” for the airline. He added: “We are a private airline, we are on no man’s land if you like. We are not an airline of a country so we have to do it ourselves, we have to survive ourselves. So that’s been a guiding principle for us.”

He added that the airline burned the most cash when it was unable to operate but was preserving its liquidity through its operations and had been able to add to its routes and bases.

New hygiene protocols

Wizz Air has implemented a new protocol for safer flying with the implementation of stringent health and hygiene measures which protect passengers and crew. HEPA filters on all Wizz Air aircraft already filter out 99.97 per cent of viruses and bacteria from the air, and Wizz Air’s new protocols support physical distancing guidelines, ensure an ultra-clean environment on board and reducing non-essential human interaction and physical contact.
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