“We’ll continue to grow throughout the course of the winter, adding in more markets, probably in the same short to medium-haul length,” said Carey. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Wizz Air’s President Robert Carey said “part” of any future aircraft orders made by the European carrier will go to its Abu Dhabi venture.

“Any growth we have coming in the future, part of it is absolutely going to come to Abu Dhabi because we’re not stopping here for sure,” he said. Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, which recently launched flights to Moscow and Muscat, is seeing a rise in passenger traffic with the opening up of key markets.

OPN 200915 Wizz Air Abu Dhabi
Wizz Air will gain operational and cost efficiencies by consolidating all UAE flights from Abu Dhabi.

“Load factors are improving as customers are back traveling again, and it’s getting easier to travel,” said Carey. “We’ll continue to grow throughout the course of the winter, adding in more markets, probably in the same short to medium-haul length.”

Strong inbound

With UAE entering its peak tourism season, there’s a fair bit of demand for inbound flights as well. “We can see anywhere up to 50-60 per cent of the volume is coming out of the local market – sometimes, it’s in the other direction. It’s pretty balanced traffic,” said Carey. “We have a good mix of destinations - some are more leisure-focused, some potentially cater to more like business or visiting family and relatives.”

Building towards peak demand

Wizz Air, which frequently sells flight tickets at steep discounts, is trying to “stimulate” demand on routes where passengers would not have traveled otherwise, according to Carey. “It is definitely serving the purpose,” said Carey. “Some of these markets may have had low-single digit number of people traveling normally and all of a sudden we are filling seats and getting good traffic. It was part of what we were keen to come in here to Abu Dhabi and do - we’re not focusing on connecting traffic or stealing traffic from other players.”

Abu Dhabi move

Wizz Air Hungary had announced earlier that it would move all of its UAE flights to Abu Dhabi by April 2022. “There’s a handful of flights that are being flown by Wizz Air Hungary that are going into Dubai, but all of our flights will consolidate into Abu Dhabi as of the end of March,” said Carey. This way, the airline’s operations will become a lot more efficient. It also helps from a marketing perspective as Wizz Air is currently promoting destinations from Abu Dhabi right

South Asia flights

South Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have traditionally been a huge market for Gulf airlines, but that’s not somewhere Wizz Air will be heading immediately. “It’s one of the markets that we would love to kind of grow into and connect - these are markets that are not ‘open skies’ markets today or fully liberalized,” said Carey. “We would aspire to serve his market in the near future.”

Business travel, which was expected to be the last segment to return, is showing some signs of recovery. “There is some business traffic that is starting to return,” said Carey. “People from small and medium business that are dependent on meeting with their clients are starting to come back and travel a bit more. The bulk of our traffic is much more VFR and leisure,” he added.

Dubai Air Show

“It’s probably one of the first real air shows coming out of the pandemic that’s going to have broad attendance - I think it’s exciting to see those back up and running because they are big industry events,” said Carey.

Wizz Air CEO Jozsef Varadi said that several regional airlines restructuring may create “bigger opportunities” for the airline’s Abu Dhabi venture. “The first few months have been difficult from an operational ramp-up perspective, given the restrictions prevailing in the marketplace,” said Varadi, during an interview with CAPA (Center for Aviation). “Now, we are on track, we are ramping up operations (and) we continue to launch new destinations. We are assessing new market opportunities.”