The National - News
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi to double capacity and hire staff as travel restrictions ease
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi expects to double its capacity to four aircraft, up from the two jets it currently operates, after the UAE capital eased travel restrictions.
The airline is recruiting 100 workers in anticipation of an expected rebound in passenger traffic.
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will introduce its third Airbus A321 Neo jet into service by the middle of December and its fourth aircraft in the first week of February to help increase flight frequencies on existing routes and open up new ones, managing director Kees Van Schaick told The National.
“The removal of the restrictions made us decide to double the capacity to four aircraft and we are recruiting additional crew,” he said.
“It made us comfortable that now is the time to further ramp up. Hopefully, we see no more further deterioration but an improvement of the overall situation. We are enjoying a very good outlook in terms of restoring air traffic and seeing passenger numbers rise.”
The budget airline, a joint venture between Abu Dhabi holding company ADQ and Wizz Air, based in Hungary, began operations in January of this year.
It is working on regulatory approvals to start flights to the Indian subcontinent, creating a massive opportunity for point-to-point services in one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, Mr Van Schaick said.
It will also begin flying to the Russian capital of Moscow and Almaty in Kazakhstan next month, increase the number of flights to Oman’s capital of Muscat and resume flights to Tel Aviv.
“That is all made possible by bringing in additional aircraft capacity,” he said.
As with many of its global peers, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi had to put some of its cabin crew on unpaid leave at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it has recalled the staff and is looking to hire more employees.
“All our crew members are not more than fully utilised, very busy in making the commercial schedule work, and now we are recruiting for aircraft three and four,” Mr Van Schaick said.
“Another 100 people will be added to the airline, so there will be around 220 people by December in total.”
Mr Van Schaick said he is optimistic about travel bookings for the winter season, with December shaping up to be a “strong” month.
“Expo 2020 [Dubai] has been a true magnet for additional traffic, which we perhaps would not have seen otherwise,” he said. “The visiting family and friends traffic is very important as well, we see it on certain routes of our network.”
During its launch at the start of 2021, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi announced plans to grow its fleet to six aircraft within 12 months. However, it later revised the plans to four jets due to the pandemic.
“We have slightly reduced our growth ambitions a little bit because the crisis was simply too deep, much deeper than [was] expected [at the time], and it took longer to recover,” he said.
“But having four aircraft by the end of the year is very promising and it really shows that things are changing for the better.”
The UAE’s management of the pandemic is “exemplary” and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi expects a “stable” and “improving” marketplace at its base in the capital, compared with Europe, he said.
The budget airline expects to turn a profit within the next two years.
“We are already ensuring that we are adding cash and profit is a matter of time. We have an ambitious growth agenda and we are building up our markets, our brand awareness in the market and that comes with investments,” he said.
“In a short [period of] time, we will truly have net profit … I would say it is a matter of one to two years.”
The airline still stands by plans to grow its fleet to 25 aircraft in the next five years.
Indigo Partners, the owner of Europe’s Wizz Air group, placed an order for 255 additional A321 Neo aircraft valued at $33 billion at list prices during the Dubai Airshow last week. Wizz Air will receive 102 aircraft, comprising 75 A321 Neos and 27 A321 XLRs.
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will tap into the new order when deliveries begin in 2025 onwards and into an existing order by Wizz Air once deliveries start in 2023, Mr Van Schaick said.
It will use the XLR narrow-body aircraft to unlock routes within seven hours’ flying distance from the UAE capital, Mr Van Schaick said.
“These long-range aircraft will make it possible for Wizz Air Abu Dhabi to fly not five hours from our base but seven hours. That means two hours more of flying time and destination markets will be opened up,” he said.
“We will be serving some white spots in western Europe, markets which are not directly flown by us yet.”