Dubai: Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is aiming to rein in costs in order to keep airfares low and retain its status as an ultra-low-cost carrier for upcoming peak travel periods, a top airline official said on Thursday. This renewed commitment comes as the global aviation industry suffers from supply chain constraints and capacity shortages.
The airline – a joint venture between ADQ and Wizz Air Holdings PLC - more than doubled the number of operated flights and passengers carried this year, with a completion rate of 99.6 per cent.
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi operated more than 15,000 flights, carrying 3 million passengers, with more than 1.5 million point-to-point passengers to Abu Dhabi this year, according to Johan Eidhagen, CEO and Managing Director of Wizz Air Abu Dhabi.
“We experienced a 150 per cent passenger growth year-on-year, making us the fastest-growing airline in the UAE,” said Eidhagen. “This indicates that more and more customers are adopting the low-cost model,” he said. The airline also launched seven new routes this year and moved to its new base in Abu Dhabi International Airport’s new Terminal A.
2024 airfare trends
Commenting on airfare trends for the next year, Eidhagen said, “If I look at the past year, we grew at an incredible 150 per cent (passenger growth). This meant that we were putting quite a lot of capacity into the markets, which has kept fares at an extremely low level compared to most other operators.”
“We do know that we need to keep our costs low to become more efficient so that we can continue to keep our fares low. So, next year, while, of course, as a business, we are always trying to maximize our revenue, etc., we do know that to be able to grow and support keeping the fares low. We still have that capability,” he explained.
Eidhagen said Wizz Air Abu Dhabi’s forward bookings into January – February look promising, with strong bookings in December. “There will be some last-minute bookings, but December will be a very strong month for us,” he added.
We experienced a 150 per cent passenger growth year-on-year, making us the fastest-growing airline in the UAE.
“We’re not sold out yet, so we still have capacity on each one of our flights. While the demand has increased year on year, we’ll still have a load factor to manage. What we can always do to keep fares low is to increase the load factor on the flights,” he explained.
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi maintains an average ‘load factor’, i.e. percentage of seats filled in an aircraft, of approximately 85 per cent, with plans to increase it next year. Eidhagen said load factors exceeding 90 per cent are common for low-cost carriers.
Move to Terminal A
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi moved operations to Abu Dhabi International Airport’s new Terminal A last month, allowing the airline to boost capacities. “The new terminal is, of course, a massive upgrade in capacity. So it allows us to grow without restrictions to add more capacity, and we focused quite a lot together with the airport on fine-tuning operations and improving efficiency,” said Eidhagen.
The move has allowed the airline to implement a new crew process, ensuring efficient, on-time departures for crew and customers. “We believe that the new airport serves as a robust growth platform for our future expansion,” said the CEO.
300 new staff recruited
According to the CEO, the airline recruited 300 new staff this year. “Over the past year, we’ve recruited and trained almost 300 pilots and cabin crew,” he said, adding that this expansion not only supports the airline’s growth but also contributes to the region’s overall development.
“While we directly employ cabin crew and pilots, it also generates opportunities for airport personnel, including accounting staff, taxi drivers, and hotel staff. This overall growth positively impacts tourism and job creation in various sectors,” he said.
While the CEO did not reveal recruitment plans for next year, he said the airline plans to hold its next recruitment round in March-April 2024.
India and Pakistan flights
Regarding flight launches to India and Pakistan, Eidhagen said the new route launches continue to be subject to bilateral negotiations. “Unfortunately, I don’t have any new announcements as these discussions continue. There seems to be a level of protectionism from various countries,” he said.
“While I don’t have positive updates, I am confident that markets like India, with well-informed consumers accustomed to low-cost travel, present opportunities. India already hosts excellent companies offering ultra-low-cost fares,” he added.
“Collaborating with them could potentially address some of the current capacity challenges, as there is a noticeable gap in supply between India and the UAE,” Eidhagen explained. He said that despite operational status, there is an evident consumer demand, suggesting potential for increased capacity in the market.