Flying will “soon return to normal” and the United Arab Emirates will be at the forefront of rebuilding the global aviation sector in a post-pandemic world, the chairman of Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, told Al Arabiya English.
As more people look to tighten their belts following the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing global recession, more people will also choose to opt for budget carriers such as Wizz Air, the founder of the UAE’s new national airline Jozsef Varadi said.
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.”
It 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. Further destinations will be launched over the coming months, including to Tel Aviv.
With a fleet composed of four brand new Airbus A321neo aircrafts, the airline will have the lowest environmental footprint among its competitors in the region.
Varadi said whilst launching an airline in the middle of a pandemic was not ideal, Wizz Air has “made a long-term commitment to creating an Abu Dhabi partnership”.
“We have to start looking at life beyond the pandemic,” he said.
In 2020 the industry faced an unprecedented crisis; with a significant decline in passenger numbers as lockdowns and border closures led to an estimated $252 billion revenue loss in 2020, according to advisory firm KPMG International.
Varadi likened the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation sector the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
“Then, the whole world was afraid of the future of aviation. And we look at today – another hugely disruptive event affecting aviation.
“But these are extraordinary issues - we will step over this and move past this.”
“I am very confident this is a short-term hitch – not a long-term issue.”
The roll-out of mass vaccination campaigns – as seen in the UAE – will give a “confidence boost” to people looking to travel again. More people will choose to fly to countries that have had successful vaccination programs – such as the Emirates – and fewer cases of coronavirus.
“Vaccinations going to achieve a lot,” said Varadi. “And, with Wizz Air, we have the youngest customer base among airlines; and it is the younger population that are more ready to take risks and fly again.”
The chairman said Wiz Air plans to boost connectivity in the region with increased short-haul flights to neighboring GCC countries and within North Africa.
“We are looking at Abu Dhabi as an institutional vehicle for feeding the Emirate’s agenda; creating more connections and helping diversify the economy,” the chairman said.
“We believe Abu Dhabi has enormous potential in the aviation sector going forward; with the emirate having a lot to offer and a center of development,” he added.
“This is why I don’t think we ever had any doubts in what we were doing – even in the midst of a pandemic. Launching the airline was right for Abu Dhabi and right for Wizz Air.”
“We look forward to growing this into a sizable business and being part of the local community and local economy.”