Wizz Air out to replicate huge European success in the Gulf

Eastern Europe’s leading budget airline reckons its ultra-low-cost model can stimulate its own markets in Abu Dhabi
Wizz Air has made itself into Eastern Europe's largest airline and will launch operations in the UAE on 1 October.
Wizz Air has made itself into Eastern Europe's largest airline and will launch operations in the UAE on 1 October.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi has the potential to replicate the success of its European counterpart and expand to a fleet of 100 aircraft in 15 years, according to the airline’s CEO.

Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air is Eastern Europe’s largest carriers and is launching a subsidiary carrier in the UAE later this year as it looks to gain a foothold in the Gulf market.

József Váradi said during an online session at FIA Connect – Farnborough Airshow’s digital replacement – that what Wizz Air can achieve in Abu Dhabi is “probably comparable” with what the business has been able to achieve in Europe.

“If you look at Wizz Air Hungary, which is the European airline of the group, we’ve got into a 100-aircraft operation over 15 years,” Váradi said. “I think this is something we will be looking at for Abu Dhabi as well.”

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi’s model will be based largely on stimulating new markets in the Middle East, which is yet to reach the level of maturity of the European scene. Váradi’s ultra-low-cost model will target people who may never have flown before, of which there are many in the Gulf region.

“Our model is not to take passengers away from existing incumbent carriers; our model is to create a market for ourselves,” he said. “We create a market ourselves by stimulating the market, taking the… barrier as low as possible for people to jump over and get into the franchise of flying.”

Váradi said Wizz Air has already proven in Europe that it can stimulate its own markets, where “essentially legacy carriers today are flying the same amount of seats and capacity that they flew 15 years ago when we started”.

Váradi said that Abu Dhabi’s location in the UAE makes it an ideal springboard for growth in the Middle East region and beyond.

“You stand in Abu Dhabi… and within a radius of seven hours you have five billion people,” he said. “That gives you immense opportunities to exploit in the future.”

He added: “It is a scalable market, it is a growing economy.”

When Wizz Air Abu Dhabi launches its first service on 1 October, its initial network will focus on the eastern Mediterranean and Caucasus, including routes to Alexandria, Athens, Kutaisi, Larnaca, Odesa and Yerevan.

The outfit will operate two Airbus A321neos from the UAE’s capital but will expand its fleet to six planes within half-a-year.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi won’t be the only budget airline to launch in the UAE this year. Air Arabia Abu Dhabi – a joint venture between Etihad Airways and Air Arabia – has already begun operations.

CLICK HERE to read our full interview with Wizz Air CEO József Váradi.

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