Low-cost, long-haul carriers can expect ongoing turbulence in the market until smaller aircraft with bigger ranges are created.
That was the message from Wizz Air founder and chief executive Jozsef Varadi speaking on stage in Europe’s Inspiration Zone on Tuesday.
Varadi explained that wide-bodied aircraft are too big to make the routes efficient. And while he questioned the ability of Airbus’ A321XLR to be the game changing aircraft its touted to be, he predicted the right type of metal should be available within the next five to 10 years.
“Long haul low cost is going to be inevitable at some point but it is not there yet,” Varadi said.
“We need to have super-efficient narrow bodies to disrupt the market. It will be done at some point [but] it is not going to be us, we are not trying to set up a long-haul carrier.”
Varadi admitted the airline flies east as far as Dubai and west as far as the Canaries from its key operations in Central and Eastern Europe. However, although Wizz’s current longest flight is six hours, Varadi insisted he has little ambition to go much further and would not enter the highly competitive transatlantic market.
Varadi said: “We are not going to change the business model… we are just extending the range for the customer.”
With 80% of the population in Central and Eastern Europe having never flown before, he argued the potential is considerable.
However, Varadi warned global aviation business may face new challenges as countries become increasingly illiberal and elect leaders who seek to put their countries ahead of the current liberal world order.
Varadi said: “I don’t think this is just a Central and Eastern Europe phenomenon, we see it across the whole globe.”
He added the airline is also ready for an eventuality as to regards Brexit, especially since the airline’s UK capacity has grown by 60% since the vote was taken in 2016.
“The London market is the west’s biggest travel market. It is bigger than New York and it is bigger than Paris,” he added.