Tuesday 24 November 2020 3:05 pm

Wizz Air slams slot suspension as it seeks to grow presence at Gatwick

Hungarian carrier Wizz Air has hit out at regulators over fears that a continued freeze on airport slot rules could derail efforts to bolster its presence at London Gatwick.

Under normal circumstances, airlines which fail to use 80 per cent of their take-off and landing slots have to cede some of these to their rivals.

Read more: Wizz Air boss predicts carrier will make full recovery within a year

European regulators have suspended the rule until March due to the coronavirus crisis, with larger carriers pressing for the suspension to be extended further.

Speaking to a conference in Paris, Wizz Air chief exec Josef Varadi said: “We can keep deferring to Covid-19 forever, but the fact of the matter is that there are airlines who are capable and able to recover quickly.

“And there are airlines that will be dragging for a long time or may never come out of this. It’s almost criminal to hold the slots they don’t have any intention to operate.”

Throughout the crisis, Wizz Air have been bullish about its comeback prospects, and has been one of the success stories of the pandemic.

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Wizz Air has opened a number of new bases and routes over the last few months, and will grow its fleet of aircraft.

In contrast, its competitors have been desperately trying to slash costs by reducing staff numbers and selling off planes amid the downturn.

Earlier this month, Varadi told City A.M. that the budget airline would be flying at pre-pandemic levels next year.

The majority of carriers have warned that they do not expect to do the same until 2024 or 2025.

Regarding Gatwick, Varadi said: “It is one of the airports we’re talking to, but I have no idea what’s going to happen to these slots.  First I would like to see the regulator take position on that.”

Read more: Wizz Air passenger numbers shrink two-thirds in October

Yesterday, global aviation body IATA said that if airlines began to have their slots taken away from them, the global network would “crumble”.

“Airlines are in no state to be operating 80 per cent of slots right now”, it added, citing new estimates that show that carriers are now set to lose $157bn this year in total.