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Wizz Air Abu Dhabi has taken an aggressive approach to rates, and that is paying off well. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Abu Dhabi’s newest airline is awaiting regulatory clearance to launch services to India. In the meantime, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will launch flights to Sri Lanka from next month as the budget airline expands into the all-important South Asia sector.

“India is a target for us - however, there are regulatory approvals that we need to update before we do that,” said Michael Berlouis, Managing Director at Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, on the sidelines of Arabian Travel Market.

“The return of normal bilateral service not only in India but also other countries in the region makes it easier for us to get access.”

The airline will launch flights to Sri Lanka’s Mattala airport on June 1 despite the tense situation with the country facing its worst economic crisis ever. There is also an acute shortage of essential commodities and prolonged power cuts.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is undeterred for now. “We are monitoring the situation as the safety of our passengers is top priority,” said Berlouis.

Oil price jitters

With the effects of the pandemic gradually waning, oil prices have now emerged as the biggest source of concern for airline executives. The Abu Dhabi carrier hopes to offset the impact of high jet fuel prices with a highly fuel-efficient fleet.

Berlouis said the Airbus A321neo is 20 per cent more efficient than the previous generation of narrow-body aircraft. Wizz Air currently has four of these in its fleet, with another four expected to join by year-end.

“Although, we will have an impact from oil prices going up, the impact per seat is actually reduced,” said Berlouis. “We burn less fuel than any other aircraft that’s in the region.”

An earlier full recovery

Middle East airline chiefs have predicted that 2023 would be the year of full recovery. Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, which came into existence during the pandemic, has used the two-year crisis to expand into different markets.

The airline launched more than 34 destinations and operated 1,080 plus flights since its launch in January 2021. “A lot of people could not fly just because of the pandemic but also because of the price point,” said Berlouis. “We are offering flights to Tel Aviv for less than a taxi ride between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.”

The airline’s flights from Abu Dhabi to the Israeli capital city cost around Dh220. Salalah, a popular destination in Oman, is seen costing only around Dh150.

No more restrictions

Berlouis believes a return to ‘first-wave restrictions’ worldwide is less likely even as cases rise in China, prompting the government there to impose strict lockdowns. “The UAE is in an extremely strong position because of the high vaccination rates and the fact that the world is generally moving away from Covid first-wave restrictions and more towards vaccinations.”