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Wizz Air grows fleet to meet low-cost demand

Wizz Air fleet to soar on Mena low-cost boom Wizz Air
József Váradi, Wizz Air group CEO, said this week that he believed the Abu Dhabi airline could become a 50-aircraft operation by 2030
  • Fleet set to grow from 9 to 50 jets by 2030
  • 24% of Mena flights will be low-cost by end of this year
  • Wizz reported record revenue, up 134% to $4.19bn

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi has revealed plans to increase its fleet size by over 400 percent before the end of the decade, as budget air travel in the Mena region booms.

The carrier may also expand further into Saudi Arabia.

The joint venture between Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund ADQ, which owns 51 percent, and Budapest-based Wizz Air Holdings, took delivery of its ninth aircraft this month, with further plans to increase this to 16 in the next year.

József Váradi, Wizz Air group CEO, said in a press statement this week that he believed the Abu Dhabi airline could become a 50-aircraft operation by 2030.

Launched in November 2019, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi last month announced its first flights from the UAE capital to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan and Antalya, Turkey.

The carrier is now flying to more than 39 destinations.

Váradi also said the expansion would double the number of employees at its Abu Dhabi base to 800 within the next 12 months.

John Grant, partner at Midas Aviation, described the move as “disruptive and ambitious” and said it could initially result in competitive fares, although he cautioned “if it’s sustainable is another thing”.

In Saudi Arabia, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi has started operating routes to Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam from its core Central Eastern Europe (CEE), Italy and Austria markets. There are also daily flights from Abu Dhabi to Dammam and Medina.

“The initial phase of our Saudi Arabian operations includes a planned network of 24 inbound routes – 21 have commenced flying,” Váradi said.

Linus Bauer, managing director of Dubai-based Bauer Aviation Advisory, said the expansion would depend on a number of factors: the availability of resources, operational capabilities and market conditions.

“It also depends on the company’s long-term strategy and its willingness to take risks,” he added.

The Middle East region boasts a number of low-cost carriers, including flydubai, Air Arabia, flyadeal, Jazeera Airways and Flynas.

Saudi’s General Authority of Civil Aviation in May issued a tender inviting investors “wishing to obtain a national low-cost air carrier licence at King Fahd International Airport in Dammam”.

Bauer was also confident that there is still growth potential in the region’s low cost carrier market.

However, he warned that oversupply issues could arise if demand fails to keep up.

“Whether the market becomes saturated will depend on various factors, including economic growth, regional stability, changes in travel behaviour, population growth, the pace of infrastructure development and competition among airlines,” Bauer said.

Hungary-based Wizz Air announced record revenue for the financial year 2023 of €3,896 million ($4,193 million), up 134 percent year-on-year and a 41 percent increase on pre-Covid levels in 2020.

Load factors reached 92.2 percent for the final month of the last financial year.

John Grant, a partner at Midas Aviation, said in March he believed future growth in the Middle East will be fuelled by budget airlines.

“In 2010, 9 percent of all capacity from the Middle East was operated by low-cost airlines,” Grant said.

“By the end of 2023, the low-cost airline pie slice will have increased to 24 percent – still below the global average of 30 percent, but with an average annual growth rate of 12.5 percent over the last 13 years.

“By comparison, legacy airline capacity has only recorded a 2.5 percent average annual growth rate over the same period.”