While most airlines in are cancelling aircraft orders and deferring deliveries, budget airline Wizz Air, which will soon launch in Abu Dhabi, is proceeding with 22 Airbus deliveries over the next 14 months.
CEO József Váradi told Aviation Business that Wizz Air’s fleet, which consists of A320s and A321s, will grow from 121 aircraft to around 135 by June 2021, after it has returned some of its older jets.
Some of Wizz Air’s European rivals, including EasyJet, have negotiated with manufacturers to defer orders while Boeing reported this week that customers pulled 108 orders for 737 Max aircraft in April alone.
Airlines globally are facing a cash crisis because of government-imposed travel restrictions in response to Covid-19, which have decimated demand for air travel.
Wizz Air in April was operating at around 3% of its capacity and in May it is operating at about 15% of its overall capacity. But the carrier is one of a handful with large cash reserves.
Váradi said that Wizz Air had €1.5 billion of liquidity going into the coronavirus crisis, making it “one of the most resilient airline businesses in the world”.
“We have the financial capacity to not only alleviate the issues from coronavirus but also to look at what the future brings,” he said.
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, the carrier’s new Middle East venture, is on-track to launch in Q3 this year and could eventually operate a fleet of at least 50 aircraft.
Váradi said that Wizz Air Abu Dhabi could even operate a larger fleet but that will depend on how customers react to its launch, the regulatory environment and how quickly the venture can grow.
“I’m quite confident because we’ve been developing this business across a number of markets and we know how consumers tend to react. I’m very sure that we’re going to be on-track for 50 aircraft and possibly we could accelerate and do it bigger and bigger.”
Váradi said that the business is scaling up its original plans in Abu Dhabi.
He concluded: “I actually think that the situation is now giving us a greater appetite for Wizz Air Abu Dhabi. We are seeing the whole industry moving backwards; we are going to be one of the very few ones move things forward.
“And we think that that actually creates an opportunity for us. So as opposed to delaying plans we actually want to accelerate.”
Earlier this month, Wizz Air unveiled new regular flights from Europe to Abu Dhabi from 3 June for less than €60 prior to it setting up its new base in the UAE.