SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 6 December 2021, Monday |

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi to double capacity and hire staff as travel restrictions lift

Following the relaxation of travel restrictions in the UAE capital, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi expects to double its capacity to four aircraft, up from the two jets it currently operates.

The airline is hiring 100 people in anticipation of a rebound in passenger traffic.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will begin service with its third Airbus A321 Neo jet in the middle of December and its fourth aircraft in the first week of February to help increase flight frequencies on existing routes and open up new ones, according to managing director Kees Van Schaick.

“With the restrictions removed, we decided to double the capacity to four aircraft, and we are recruiting additional crew,” he explained.

“It gave us confidence that now is the time to ramp up even more.” Hopefully, we will not see any further deterioration, but rather an improvement in the overall situation… We have a very good outlook in terms of restoring air traffic and increasing passenger numbers.”

The low-cost carrier, a collaboration between Abu Dhabi holding company ADQ and Hungary-based Wizz Air, will begin operations in January 2021.

Mr Van Schaick stated that the company is working on regulatory approvals to begin flights to the Indian subcontinent, which will create a massive opportunity for point-to-point services in one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets.

It will also begin flying to Moscow, Russia, and Almaty, Kazakhstan, beginning next month, increase the number of flights to Muscat, Oman, and resume flights to Tel Aviv.

“All of this is made possible by bringing in more aircraft capacity,” he explained.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, like many of its global competitors, was forced to place some of its cabin crew on unpaid leave during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it has recalled the employees and is looking to hire more.

“All of our crew members are more than fully utilized, we are very busy making the commercial schedule work, and we are now recruiting for aircraft three and four,” Mr Van Schaick said.

“Another 100 people will be added to the airline, bringing the total to around 220 by December.”

Van Schaick is upbeat about winter travel bookings, predicting that December will be a “strong” month.

“Expo 2020 [Dubai] has been a true magnet for additional traffic that we may not have seen otherwise,” he explained. “Visiting family and friends traffic is also very important; we see it on specific routes of our network.”

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi announced plans to expand its fleet to six aircraft within 12 months of its launch in early 2021. However, due to the pandemic, the plans were later revised to four jets.

“We have slightly reduced our growth ambitions a little bit because the crisis was simply too deep, much deeper than [was] expected [at the time], and it took longer to recover,” he said.

“However, having four aircraft by the end of the year is very encouraging and demonstrates that things are changing for the better.”

Wizz Air will fly direct from Abu Dhabi to Katowice, Budapest, Bucharest (pictured), Cluj-Napoca, and Sofia.

When compared to Europe, the UAE’s response to the pandemic has been described as “exemplary,” and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi anticipates a “stable” and “improving” marketplace at its base in the capital.

The low-cost carrier expects to be profitable within the next two years.

“We’re already making sure we’re adding cash, and profit will follow in due course.” “We have a bold growth strategy, and we are investing to expand our markets and raise brand awareness in t

“Within a short [period of] time, we will have a true net profit… It will take one to two years, in my opinion.”

The airline maintains its plans to expand its fleet to 25 aircraft over the next five years.

During the Dubai Airshow last week, Indigo Partners, the owner of Europe’s Wizz Air group, placed an order for 255 additional A321 Neo aircraft valued at $33 billion at list prices. Wizz Air in Hungary will receive 102 aircraft, including 75 A321 Neos and 27 A321 XLRs.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will tap into the new order when deliveries begin in 2025 and into an existing Wizz Air order when deliveries begin in 2023, according to Mr Van Schaick.

According to Mr Van Schaick, the XLR narrow-body aircraft will be used to open up routes within seven hours’ flying distance of the UAE capital.

“With these long-range aircraft, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will be able to fly not five, but seven hours from our base.” “That means two hours more flying time and new destination markets,” he explained.

“We will serve some white spots in Western Europe, markets that we do not currently serve directly.”