Coronavirus: young people want to fly again, says airline boss


Wizz Air boss József Váradi

Each passenger must wear a face mask and be offered a hand sanitizer.

Some seats are left empty, there is no food served or magazines in flight and the planes are thoroughly cleaned every night.

This is Wizz Air’s new “hygiene regime”.

Despite the fact that travel restrictions against coronaviruses remain in place across much of Europe, the airline has already taken certain routes. There is a flight from Luton to Tenerife tomorrow afternoon.

The boss and founder of the Hungarian low-budget airline József Váradi said that they were selling around 75% of the seats on flights at the moment, although he added that his planes are normally “half full” because some people don’t show up.

In a BBC interview, Váradi suggested that some people are now flying to visit relatives, their second homes or because “they just want to get out of the current blockage.”

But Wizz Air does not ask passengers about their reasons for traveling.

“One of the trends that we see is that young people want to be back in the air fairly quickly,” he said.

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However, the Hungarian entrepreneur expressed frustration that there is still no set of common international standards for measures that should be adopted on planes and at airports to limit the spread of the virus.

“It’s a bit of a zoo,” he said, because “neither of the two countries” out of the 45 nations where the airline operates applies the same standards or interprets them the same way.

He also called for a “better balance”, globally, between restrictions to stop the spread of the virus and the need to restart business: “Countries and people cannot be locked up forever”.

Rival airline Easyjet recently suggested that the middle seats of planes could be left empty to make social distance easier.

Can airlines survive?

Váradi said it would “kill an airline” in the longer term.

Airlines are burning money because their fleets are largely anchored. In addition, the number of passengers should not, by and large, return to its pre-pandemic level for several years. Tens of thousands of cabin crew and pilots are laid off.

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A Wizz Air plane taking off in Austria

Wizz Air is cutting 1,000 jobs out of 5,000 in Europe. However, this week, the airline announced plans to launch new routes this summer between Luton and four Greek islands as well as Faro in the Algarve. In the fall, he also hopes to start flights to Marrakech.

The airline boldly anticipates further growth by the end of this year, and plans to increase its aircraft fleet from 121 to 135 over the next 18 months.

Most people will deteriorate after the pandemic, and Váradi predicts that this new economic climate will strengthen the hand of low-cost airlines.

Not surprisingly, he also predicts that “a large number” of airlines will fall victim to the blow: “If you are not a national carrier bailed out by the government or if you are not a self-sufficient, cash-rich airline, then your days are over, the hour is turning. “

The limited legroom means that passengers can be packed into its modern fleet of more fuel-efficient aircraft. Váradi says his airline’s carbon footprint is smaller per capita than its competitors.

Any airline boss should be optimistic, but any prediction that the planes will fill up this summer when the lifting of travel restrictions is to be tempered.

Airline forecasts are normally reliable, but these are the most unpredictable times.


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