Wizz Air, which operates short-haul flights out of its Abu Dhabi base, also addresses another crucial concern for employees: the crew gets to be back home by the evening. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Wizz Air Abu Dhabi plans to double its workforce by the year-end as it adds more aircraft. The budget airline - a joint venture between Hungary’s Wizz Air and Abu Dhabi’s ADQ - will then have a total workforce of 400 including cabin crew as it hits full recruitment mode.

Two more aircraft will join the fleet in autumn, quickly followed by another two, said Owain Jones, Development Officer at Wizz Air. “This creates all sorts of opportunities to advance and become senior cabin crew and then trainers, and even for pilots to advance their careers,” said Jones. “You can reach senior and command positions far quicker than you would do at a traditional low-growth growth airline.”

Wizz Air, which operates short-haul flights out of its Abu Dhabi base, also addresses another crucial concern for employees. With most destinations taking only 3-4 hours each way, pilots and cabin crew get to be back home by evening, said Jones. “That’s important for a lot of the crew.” In contrast, most full-service airline staff have to stay in the countries they travel to. “Elsewhere in the value chain, there have been some difficulties with ground handlers, but that’s all coming back to strength now,” said Jones. “Abu Dhabi has been a bit better at keeping track of the return of demand than maybe elsewhere in the world.”

Airports in UK and Europe are grappling with an extreme staffing deficit, which has resulted in thousands of flights being cancelled. The issue took a center stage at the Farnborough airshow, where the heads of Qatar Airways and Emirates slammed London airport authorities for not foreseeing the current crisis.

Owain Jones, Development Officer at Wizz Air. Image Credit: Supplied

Network expansion in full flight

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi has 30 plus destinations in its network and, most recently, announced services to Maldives and Kuwait. Although there are several flights being operated to these destinations from Abu Dhabi, the “fare levels we will be offering our customers are definitely new for Abu Dhabi”, said Jones.

The addition of Maldives shows Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is seeing a ‘quicker’ evolution of business, compared to some of the European carrier’s other markets, said Jones. “If you look at the development of Wizz Air in Central Eastern Europe, it took quite a few years before we moved into those sorts of markets.”

The road to expanding its network in the Gulf and South Asia has not been completely smooth. It postponed the launch of its flights to Mattala, Sri Lanka, as the country goes through an economic and political crisis.

“The conditions deteriorated to an extent where we felt it would be prudent to postpone that decision, but Mattala is very much still in our plan,” said Jones. “Once we see the operating conditions supporting that route, we are keen to start as soon as we can.”

The airline has not zeroed in on a date for its India launch yet. “We are hoping to fly the new aircraft to new destinations, including India – we don’t have a fixed timeline as yet,” said Jones.

Recession concerns

The airline industry executive is not concerned about a recession affecting Wizz Air Abu Dhabi’s prospects. Several economists have flagged the possibility of a global economic slowdown this year due to the high oil prices.

“During previous financial shocks, the only sub sector of the airline industry that was not hit was low-cost airlines,” said Jones. “It’s because when people do become more cost conscious, they migrate to the lowest cost option.”

“Low-cost airlines have grown year-on-year every year for the last 25 years regardless of what the economic backstory is. People will want to travel no matter what the economic circumstance is.”

Fuel prices

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi can ‘mitigate’ the high fuel prices by operating the Airbus A321neo aircraft, which offers up to 20 per cent fuel savings on previous variants and has a longer flight range of up to five hours.

“Our entire business model is designed to be efficient and therefore low-cost and that principle has been built into us since we started a year and a half ago,” said Owain Jones. “The focus is very much the unit cost and being the most efficient by some margin in the market.”

As of July 15, global jet fuel prices are at around $147 per barrel, down about 17 per cent from a month ago. It is still up 86 per cent from 2021 levels.