Wizz Air Abu Dhabi expects to carry 1 mln passengers in 2021: Managing director

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi aims to carry one million passengers in the first 12 months of operations through a network of 13 destinations in 11 countries, the managing director of the airline told Al Arabiya English.

Kees Van Schaick said the budget carrier has earmarked the targets for the United Arab Emirates’ newest airline should COVID-19 travel restrictions ease.

“We are aiming to carry one million passengers in the first 12 months of operations through a network of 13 destinations in 11 countries if COVID-19 travel restrictions ease. It will all depend on the speed of recovery so we can start delivering on those targets.”

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, a joint venture established between ADQ and Wizz Air Holdings plc, launched in January with the aim of offering a “a bold new frontier for ultra-low fare travel in the region.”

“Launching an airline in a pandemic may seem like a crazy idea,” Van Schaick told Al Arabiya English. “Travel restrictions continue to be placed in many countries around the world that are still battling the spread of the virus.”

“New strains of COVID-19 have added further pressure on healthcare systems that are facing increasing difficulties and challenges. The crisis has no doubt had a devastating impact on aviation in general, however there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

However, Van Schaick said crisis situations often produce new and sometimes unexpected opportunities.

“It is in times like these that bold and courageous moves must be taken.”

“In January of this year, we launched our maiden flight for Wizz Air Abu Dhabi to Athens. It will have come as a surprise to many people to see an airline launch new flights in one of the most troubling economic periods in modern history.

“However, we believe that the long-term trend for air travel will be positive. We anticipate that as more and more people are vaccinated, we will see consumer demand for travel increase and a slow and steady return to some degree of a ‘new normality’.”

In particular, the UAE’s high rate of vaccinations will accelerate the recovery of air travel demand in the country, especially short-haul flights that passengers see as less risky than long-haul journeys, said Van Schaick.

“What consumers want is very efficient, safe, hassle-free and low-cost travel experiences. This is exactly what we had in mind when we created Wizz Air Abu Dhabi.”

“We have a successful low-cost offering in Europe and we have created a similar bespoke offering for the UAE. With it, we are bringing the best aircraft, infrastructure and maximized utility in an optimum way.”

New routes

Van Schaick said expansion is also on the cards, despite the pandemic.

“With four A321neo aircraft currently dedicated for the Abu Dhabi operations, we are in a position to announce new routes and travel opportunities for people in the UAE and the wider regions,” he said. “We could be operating anywhere between 20 to 25 aircrafts in Abu Dhabi in five years’ time.”

“Given the uncertain world that we all live in and continuously changing travel restrictions, we are moving capacity dynamically around the system to meet near-term demand. The moment we are able to confirm our market interest based on consumer demand, we are going to be making announcements on our routes.”

“There is an opportunity for us to focus on key segments including people visiting friends and family, travel opportunities for remote workers, short-stay holidays and the slower-recovering business travel.”

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi initially announced a route network that includes Athens, Thessaloniki, Alexandria, Kutaisi, Larnaca, Odesa and Yerevan. It has also announced the launch of its route to Alexandria, Egypt.

“Our launch has been based on ambition, trust and bravery to take a leap of faith in these challenging times,” said Van Schaick.

“We are a firm believer that fortune favors the brave and we are excited to bring a bold new approach to a travel segment that has high potential for growth in the UAE and wider region.”

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