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Wizz Air to Launch Five Abu Dhabi Routes, Open New Subsidiary in 2020
European low-cost airline Wizz Air is finalizing plans to launch five routes between Europe and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates this year. The airline will serve Bucharest, Romania and Budapest, Hungary starting on June 3; Katowice, Poland and Sofia, Bulgaria starting Sept. 15; and Cluj-Napoca, Romania starting Sept. 16. The new routes were revealed alongside the creation of Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, a joint venture launched by Wizz Air and the Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company, the second low-cost carrier based in Abu Dhabi.
Wizz Air will be the first European low-cost airline operating in Abu Dhabi.
Wizz Air’s first step will be to connect Abu Dhabi, a hub for Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, with the European hubs it has already established. This will allow the airline to fly higher-demand services that are more likely to be filled amid the coronavirus crisis than smaller routes connecting Abu Dhabi with niche markets.
“We are scaling up our original plans. We are trying to launch even earlier than what we originally planned, and the scale will be bigger,” Wizz Air Holdings CEO Józef Váradi commented on the airline’s plan to launch in June despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis. “We are bringing a niche that does not really exist at this point in time. We’ll be stimulating the marketplace and that feeds into the strategic objectives of Abu Dhabi.”
“If the airline stays grounded for another 18 months, we would still be in business – that’s the level of liquidity that we have,” Váradi added.
Wizz’s Abu Dhabi to Budarest and Abu Dhabi to Bucharest services will operate twice weekly until Sept. 30, at which time they will increase to three weekly services. All of the services the carrier is launching in September will operate twice weekly for the foreseeable future.
“These new routes positively reflect the industry’s resilience and its capability to continue pushing forward with bold plans that will stimulate consumer demand and the sustained recovery of the aviation market,” said Shareef Al Hashmi, Chief Executive Officer of Abu Dhabi Airports in a press release.
The first nonstop routes between Abu Dhabi and each of the soon-to-be-served markets will add close to 200,000 seat capacity out of Abu Dhabi per year.
“Today’s announcement underpins our long term dedication to bringing low fares combined with a high quality onboard experience to ever more customers in Abu Dhabi,” said Váradi. “Wizz Air’s mission feeds into Abu Dhabi’s diversified economic strategy as we continue to stimulate traffic by creating demand to the benefit of growing Abu Dhabi’s touristic and economic diversity.”
Wizz Air solely operates the Airbus A320 family. It will likely launch Abu Dhabi routes with A321neo aircraft, which have expanded fuel tanks and better fuel efficiency than the A320ceo family, allowing for better performance on the longer routes. The carrier has Airbus A321XLR airplanes set to begin delivery in 2023, which could potentially allow it to expand services in the Middle East or Asia past Abu Dhabi or offer longer-range European flights from Abu Dhabi to destinations like Iceland or the Spanish Canary Islands.
Meanwhile, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is planning to begin operations in the fourth quarter of this year, moving ahead with its original plans without delay.
Wizz Air’s announcement feels like a bright spot amid the coronavirus crisis, which has seen as much as a 70 percent drop in services around the world and a 90 percent drop in demand in some markets. Wizz Air is betting that both Abu Dhabi and European countries will be open to international travel as early as June.
The carrier is also betting that people will be ready to travel internationally over the summer; while some may be ready to travel as mandatory shelter-in-place orders and lockdowns are lifted, many others may be hesitant to travel until treatments or vaccines for the virus have been developed and proven effective in clinical trials.
Though tickets for each of the new services are already on sale, Wizz Air is prepared for the worst: should travel restrictions extend into the time that Wizz Air will be operating its Abu Dhabi flights, it will give passengers the option to rebook for a later date, get a full cash refund, or receive 120 percent of the value of their ticket in credit to apply toward other services that the carrier operates.
Wizz Air has already taken steps to improve safety on select domestic flights it has resumed. It is planning to operate 10 percent of scheduled flights for passengers who are traveling for essential reasons. Cabin crew are required to wear masks and gloves on all flights, and they will distribute sanitizing wipes to passengers. Distancing measures will be enacted in flight, and all aircraft used for revenue services will be disinfected overnight. It is likely that the airline will continue to take similar measures as it brings back other services and launches its Abu Dhabi flights.
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