Wizz Air’s chief executive has said that the airline will return to pre-pandemic service levels within a year.
Speaking to City A.M., Jozsef Varadi that although it would likely take the aviation sector as a whole much longer to recover, he was incredibly upbeat about the Hungarian airline’s prospects.
“It’s going to take five years for the industry to recover, but it’s going to take us a year”, he said.
“Once we start to see these restrictions falling away, we are going to go very big very quickly.”
Most airlines are not predicting a return to 2019’s passenger numbers until 2024 at the earliest due to the damage wrought by coronavirus.
“I’m very upbeat with regard to the prospects of this airline, and our prospect is very different from the perspective of the industry”, he said.
“The industry will continue to struggle and will be dragged down for a long long time – maybe five or 10 years. It will take a long, long time for many airlines, especially the inefficient high cost legacy carriers.”
As a result of travel restrictions brought in to combat the disease, Wizz Air flew 70 per cent fewer passengers in the first six months of the year.
But, Varadi said, when restrictions were lifted – as they were with the Canary Islands two weeks ago – demand has “exploded”.
He slammed the UK government for its handling of the travel sector, and said that the new ban on international travel was “totally ineffective”.
“It doesn’t make any sense. There is no country that achieved anything out of these policies – they are sheer political measures.”
Wizz Air has been one of few success stories in an industry that has been repeatedly hammered by the pandemic.
While other airlines have been focused on cutting routes and bases, Wizz Air has launched 260 new routes so far this year.
In addition, it has opened 13 new bases, including at Bari in Italy, and Oslo and Tronheim in Norway.
Varadi told City A.M. that it would continue to pursue this growth strategy, backed up by its healthy cash pile of €1.6bn.
He said the airline could be totally self-sufficient in the short-term, and said it would reject any offer of state aid.
Many carriers, especially in Europe, have been bailed out by governments at enormous expense to the taxpayer.
He bemoaned the rescue deals as a “disaster for the sector”:
“The state should set the regulatory framework for the market and not be in a shareholder in one of the players. The measures taken to prop up carriers like Air France-KLM will never be repaid.
“It almost feels like the industry is going back 20 years”.
Wizz Air swings to loss as restrictions hit demand
Wizz Air this morning swung to a €243.1m (£219m) loss for the first six months of the year as the coronavirus pandemic decimated air travel.
Over the period the low-cost carrier flew 6.5m people, 70.1 per cent lower than last year’s 22.1m.
However, the Hungarian airline outperformed a number of other carriers in the same period, flying at 72 per cent capacity in the period.
Revenue also fell 71.8 per cent to €471.2m in the same period.
The results come as the UK put in place a new lockdown banning international travel for the next month, another hammer blow for the industry.
In a statement, Varadi acknowledged the challenge the new ban would present to airlines, but said the company had laid the foundations for a “swift recovery”.
Varadi said: “During the first half of the financial year, we demonstrated outstanding agility and invested in long-term market opportunities.
“We continue to pursue opportunities as they arise and to create a unique competitive advantage for the future.”