Wizz Air Holdings Plc CEO Jozsef Varadi said he’s no longer counting on a rebound in European air traffic this summer as travel restrictions persist and vaccine rollouts stutter.
Uncertainty over the easing of curbs make it impossible to predict levels of demand in three or four months, and whether an envisaged increase in capacity to between 70% and 80% of pre-pandemic levels is justified, Varadi said.
“We need to reconcile these numbers with reality,” he said. “It might be possible to operate within these ranges, but we can’t guarantee it. It’s not a matter of capacity planning but governments imposing restrictions.”
Wizz’s assessment of prospects for the vital summer season, during which European airlines make most of their money, is in line with increasingly conservative projections from analysts. But it contrasts with a more optimistic view from EasyJet Plc, which said it’s ready to ramp up operations and most countries are set to resume flying “at scale” in May.
Varadi said that while he’s confident there will ultimately be a rebound given pent-up demand, “whether this will happen over the summer or the winter or next spring, we don’t know.” Budapest-based Wizz said it expects “only a gradual traffic recovery into late summer.”
Europe has been much more restrictive with air-travel than anticipated, the CEO said, citing the UK’s dithering over which destinations will feature in a May 17 restart, together with fallout from delayed vaccination programs on the continent that “could take them a year to catch up.” Wizz, listed in London and backed by Bill Franke’s Indigo Partners, still intends to be aggressive in targeting market share where opportunities arise and plans to stick with all of its 40-plus bases, Varadi said.