Dubai: Wizz Air Abu Dhabi has declared its commitment to remaining an ultra-low-cost carrier for the foreseeable future, a top airline official said Tuesday.
Michael Berlouis, the airline’s managing director, said the carrier’s business model is geared towards ensuring that the cost of air travel remains as low as possible.
He said the ultra-low-fare national airline of the UAE has no plans to change its pricing strategy in the coming years and has planned rapid expansions to the coveted Indian and African markets.
In a short while since its launch in 2020, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi has managed to attract a broad customer base – ranging from Gen Z and millennials to those aged 40 and above, said Berlouis.
The airline enjoyed a load factor of 99 per cent during the Eid holidays this year. “Compared to October last year, we are carrying seven times the passenger volume this month. We are carrying over 125,000 passengers a month, whereas, during peak pandemic, our volumes stood at 20,000 to 30,000 passengers,” Berlouis revealed.
In a free-wheeling interview with Gulf News, the airline chief shared insights into Wizz Air Abu Dhabi’s aggressive pricing strategy, expansion plans, and robust recovery from the pandemic.
How does Wizz Air Abu Dhabi keep its airfares low?
Explaining how Wizz Air’s pricing remains competitive, Berlouis explained: “From the outside, our pricing strategy does look very aggressive. However, if you look at the fare, we offer a completely unbundled product. For example, if you want to fly to Baku, Azerbaijan, you could get a ticket for Dh200, including small cabin baggage,” explained Berlouis.
However, if the passenger wants to add additional baggage allowance, priority boarding, and even food on board, these services would add to the air ticket costs. “Despite that, you might be spending a maximum of 1,000 euros to go there and come back, which is significantly lower than most of our competitors,” he explained.
However, the airline executive stressed that Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is not offering an introductory offer with these fares. “The price reflects the cost, and that is what makes us unique.
I don’t see our pricing policy changing in the next couple of years because this is the strategy and business model. We drive the cost down as aggressively as we can, and then we take that benefit and pass it on to the consumer.
Destination expansion plans to India at the ‘regulatory stage’
Berlouis said Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is keen to enter the Indian market and is currently applying for permits to begin operations in the sub-continent. “We are at the regulatory stage, and we need to get the destinations which we would be operating into and then secure the operating permit,” he said.
“During this phase, we are looking at which markets we will enter first, choosing ones that are underserved in Abu Dhabi. We feel our cost base gives us a competitive advantage compared to some of the other legacy carriers on the UAE-India route,” Berlouis said.
As part of the airline’s expansion plans in the GCC, the carrier has launched new routes to Kuwait City and Saudi Arabia. However, Berlouis confirmed the company has no plans to launch in Doha, Qatar, ahead of the FIFA World Cup. “We have also added flights to Ankara, Samarkand, and Maldives as well,” he said.
“We have excellent network coverage for Eastern Europe. The next step in our expansion plans is Central Asia, strengthening Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and other countries in that region. We are also potentially looking at the markets in Africa,” he added.
Fleet expansion plans revealed
Commenting on the airline’s fleet expansion plans, Berlouis said: “At present, we have six Airbus A321neo aircraft. We plan to add two more in the next two months, ending our year with eight aircraft. We also have one wet lease aircraft from Hungary, increasing our total fleet size to nine jets.”
The A321neo is the longest-fuselage member of Airbus’ single-aisle A320 family, seating 180 to 220 passengers in a typical two-class interior layout and as many as 244 in a higher-density arrangement.
The top official at Wizz Air Abu Dhabi also confirmed that the airline has no plans to partner with other aircraft manufacturers. “The way we see it, the A321, specifically the neo aircraft, is one of the best in the market in terms of efficiency. We have 239 seats on a narrow body, one of the highest densities on this airframe,” said Berlouis.
“The aircraft has 20 per cent less fuel burn than the A320ceo engines, and that combined with the group purchase agreements that WizzAir has in place, we can use the aircraft to benefit us and have the lowest cost possible in the industry.”
“Being ultra-low-cost, we keep the model as simple as possible, and that is why we operate one type of airframe and one type of engine in Abu Dhabi,” he added.