Wizz Air’s Abu Dhabi-based joint venture will now be bigger than originally planned with six aircraft up from three, the Hungary-based carrier’s chief executive said on Wednesday.
The joint venture with Abu Dhabi state holding company ADQ will start flying in October, with tickets on sale from June to destinations in Europe, the Indian subcontinent, Middle East and Africa.
“We are looking at a larger scale start versus what we originally contemplated,” Wizz CEO Jozsef Varadi told Reuters, saying that despite the challenge of Covid-19, Wizz saw opportunities emerging.
“We would be looking at a six aircraft start in the first six months.”
Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air said it could not provide profit guidance for this year because of the coronavirus pandemic which has heavily restricted air travel, after it grew profit 30 per cent last year.
For the year to the end of March 2020, Wizz posted underlying net profit of 344.8 million euros ($386 million), slightly behind its forecast of 350-355 million euros due to forex headwinds, but ahead of last year’s result after it flew 16 per cent more passengers.
Since the end of its financial period, operations at Wizz, focused on eastern and central Europe but with significant operations in western Europe too, have been severely limited by the pandemic and it said that it was too early to guide on net profit due to coronavirus-related uncertainty.
Wizz, however, is still planning to take all of its aircraft deliveries meaning it has the ability to grow seat numbers by nine per cent in the financial year to the end of March 2021 depending on the easing of restrictions.
Airlines across the world have announced job cuts and said they will need to shrink their fleets to survive the pandemic, which for the last ten weeks has shut down air travel, leaving them struggling without revenues.
While Wizz has cut 1,000 jobs, it is cash-rich. It said on Wednesday it had 1.5 billion euros of cash, giving it the confidence to stick with its long-term expansion plans.
“We are confident that we can ramp up operations quickly, re-stimulate demand with our ultra-low fares and contribute to the vital recovery of travel and tourism in our markets,” said Wizz’s chief executive Jozsef Varadi in a statement.
Wizz, Europe’s No. 3 budget carrier behind largest players Ryanair and easyJet, was one of the first airlines to restart some flights in May and said last week it would open new bases.