Wizz Air to restart Vienna operations May 1

Wizz Air
Credit: Wizz Air

SALZBURG—Wizz Air will restart operations from its Vienna base May 1 and is emerging from the crisis as a “structural winner,” according to the Central and Eastern European ULCC’s deputy CEO.

“We were the last airline which stopped operations in Vienna, so it is logical to be the first one back, because we are the [lowest] cost producer,” Wizz Air deputy CEO and Wizz Air Hungary MD Stephen Jones told Aviation Daily in an interview. 

Wizz Air has only been operating 3.5% of its scheduled capacity because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Service had continued from three bases in Romania along with Budapest, Hungary and Sofia, Bulgaria. Wizz Air UK will resume operations from a fourth Romanian base at Timisoara, also on May 1.

As there are still many travel restrictions in place, the restart from the Vienna base is only on around 20 routes, and the destinations have been chosen carefully. 

“The frequencies will be relatively low. Regarding restrictions, we believe we can operate on these routes. Changes on short notice could be possible,” Jones said. 

The carrier has seven Airbus A320/321s based in Vienna. This will be increased to nine aircrafts.

“We would like to get Poland started up and running again, because it is one of the best markets, but this will take time,” Jones added. 

“Obviously, it will be a very different world when we come back after the crisis. Before, Wizz Air had a network of 700 routes. We are working currently on network changes,” he said. “Most of our fleet is parked. We will be relocating some aircraft, but we don’t want to close bases.”

He said restarting a “warm” airline is easier, when the core operations are running. “For example, we have done so far more than 50 cargo and repatriation flights. That’s enabled us to keep the operation running.” 

Aircrafts will undergo deep disinfecting every night. Passengers—who are expected to be very cautious—will have to wear a mask on board the aircraft.

Social distancing on board is not expected to be a problem in the beginning as load factors will be low. 

“Normally we have a 90% load factor, that won’t be the case at the beginning. But I don’t believe that we will block the middle seats in the future,” Jones said. 

Cabin crews are being advised to distribute people evenly around the cabin to empty seats, according to the weight and balance allowance of the aircraft. If there are regulations introduced in some countries to block the middle seat to enforce physical distancing “then in those areas ticket prices will be higher,” Jones said.  

“These are unbelievable times for the aviation industry. Yesterday we overtook Lufthansa slightly in terms of market capitalization. Lufthansa was at €3.4 billion ($3.68 billion). And we are 15% bigger now compared to easyJet in terms of market capitalization.” 

According to Jones, the financial markets have valued Wizz Air differently to other carriers because of how it is managing the crisis.

Airlines compete also on the quality of their balance sheet, Jones added. “Those airlines which have a good one, that allows you to continue for some time, otherwise you are simply running out of cash,” Jones said. “We are in good shape. Wizz Air is coming out of this crisis as a structural winner.”

Kurt Hofmann

Kurt Hofmann has been writing on the airline industry for 25 years. He appears frequently on Austrian, Swiss and German television and broadcasting…