Tuesday 25 August 2020 10:29 am

Wizz Air plots Gatwick growth despite Covid-19 quarantine rollercoaster

Budget airline Wizz remains committed to expansion at Gatwick airport despite the government’s ever-changing quaratine rules causing travel chaos.

Wizz’s ambition is to build a 20-plane base at London’s Gatwick Airport, and the UK’s 14-day quarantine rules, brought in with little notice and often setting off a wave of cancellations, have not changed its plan.

Wizz CEO Jozsef Varadi told Bloomberg the base will open in October with just one plane, but sees scope to grow that quickly to employ as many as 800 people in the West Sussex airport.

Wizz has been one of the fastest airlines to recover from the pandemic, now flying at 80% of its capacity.

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It restarted flights from the UK in June before the government changed its travel advice to allow for non-essential trips.

“For the time being, the UK is manageable,” Varadi said.

“Eighty per cent is as good as I think we’re going to get this time around. From here on, either you’re going be able to hold the line or somewhat come down on capacity,” Varadi said.

Shares in London-listed Wizz are up 0.7 per cent today.

Good for Gatwick

It’s a rare sliver of good news in the aviation sector which has been beseiged by Covid travel chaos including lockdowns, closed borders, flight restrictions and shrinking appetite for travel.

However, the ambition to expand shows Wizz attempting to gain market share in London while rivals recover at a slower pace.

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The new Wizz base may offset British Airways ditching flights from the airport – with reports BA won’t return to Gatwick.

Last month Wizz said its earnings plunged 95 per cent in the first quarter of the year as Covid-19 lockdowns set off a wave of flight cancellations.