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A Wizz Air A321 aircraft in the airline’s new livery. The carrier has expanded rapidly since the coronavirus pandemic began, as discussed in the AGLounge by Airline Geeks Podcast. (Photo: Wizz Air)

Wizz Air Announces the Launch of Abu Dhabi-based Low-Cost Carrier for 2020

Wizz Air announced on Thursday that it will set up a low-cost subsidiary in the United Arab Emirates. Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will be a partnership with Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company (ADDH), a partner of the Abu Dhabi government.

The airline is expected to begin operations in the second half of 2020 with Airbus A321neo aircraft. Wizz Air currently operates a fleet of approximately 120 Airbus A320 family aircraft within Europe with current orders approaching 270 aircraft comprising predominantly of the A321neo.

Jozsef Varadi, chief executive officer of Wizz Air Holdings said: “We are proud that our first airline to be established outside of Europe is in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE. ADDH’s deep-rooted knowledge of the local market, support and navigation in a new market for WIZZ is invaluable and will boost the successful development of this low-cost airline.”

Wizz Air, whose parent company Wizz Air Holdings plc is based in Jersey and listed on the London Stock Exchange, has been expanding its operations in recent years and has a U.K. subsidiary based at London’s Luton Airport. Wizz Air UK received an Air Operator’s Certificate last year to maintain business continuity in a post-Brexit European aviation market.

The airline is the largest low-cost carrier servicing Central and Eastern Europe and it is expected that Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will initially service this market with expansion to Western Europe, India, other Middle East destinations and Africa.

Speaking on Thursday’s announcement, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Hamad Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Airports, said: “As Abu Dhabi International Airport continues its growth as a major gateway to the UAE and the wider region, we welcome contribution airlines, such as this new airline, and the impact this partnership will make to our continued national economic development.”

Details of Wizz Air Abu Dhabi follows an announcement in October from the Etihad Aviation Group that it plans to form a joint venture with Sharjah’s Air Arabia to launch a low-cost carrier before the middle of 2020. Air Arabia Abu Dhabi would also be based at the U.A.E. capital’s airport and is expected to provide connectivity options for passengers on Etihad Airways’ network, though no initial destinations for the start-up have been forthcoming to date.

There are a number of regulatory hoops which need to be jumped through before Wizz Air Abu Dhabi can take to the skies. Arabian Business reported that “the establishment of the new airline is subject to agreement and entry into of definitive documentation with ADDH, the receipt of all necessary internal and external approvals and consents, and the airline satisfying all regulatory requirements of the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority to obtain an air operator’s certificate.”

The entry of both low-cost airlines next year will bring the total of major airlines based in the UAE to six. Though the total population of Abu Dhabi is 1.2 million and the total population of the UAE is 9.8 million, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi estimates that the reach of the A321neo aircraft opens up a potential target market of 5 billion passengers.

John Flett
John Flett
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