Wizz Air Abu Dhabi to hire 250 staff as it doubles fleet

Airline working on 'transition plan' with airport authorities to move to the new Midfield terminal when it opens

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Wizz Air
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Wizz Air Abu Dhabi plans to recruit 250 employees as it prepares to double its fleet size in the fiscal year ending March 2024 and add more capacity on existing popular routes amid strong travel demand.

The airline's hiring spree will take its total workforce to 700, who will help to operate a fleet of 16 aircraft by the end of the financial year, up from eight aircraft in April this year, managing director Johan Eidhagen told The National.

It currently has 10 jets in its fleet after taking delivery of two Airbus A321 narrow-bodied aircraft last month.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is recording load factors of 85 per cent during the peak summer travel season, up from the “mid-70s” during the same period last year, with people eager to take leisure holidays or visit family and friends, Mr Eidhagen said. Load factor is a measure of how well an airline fills available aircraft seats.

“We're super happy with our current performance, load factors have reached 85 per cent, a huge increase year on year, and our operational performance has also increased,” he said.

“We are adding more capacity and have more aircraft coming after the summer.”

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, a joint venture between Hungary's Wizz Air and Abu Dhabi state holding company ADQ, operates an ultra-low cost business model. It has an air operator certificate in the UAE and launched operations in 2021 in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It operated more than 6,000 flights and carried more than 1.2 million passengers last year as the aviation industry bounced back from the pandemic.

The airline's hiring drive follows similar moves by UAE airlines Emirates, Etihad Airways and flydubai, as well as airport and ground-handling services company dnata, to increase their workforce during a sustained boom in air travel demand since the pandemic.

The airline expects to double the number of passengers it carries from Abu Dhabi during this fiscal year to between 2.5 million and three million, Mr Eidhagen said.

It recently launched routes to Erbil, Cairo, Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, Cyprus and Santorini.

“A lot of growth depends on how fast the routes we launch now mature,” he said.

Wizz Air currently flies to 40 destinations in 28 countries from its Abu Dhabi base.

Growth plans

As part of its short-term growth plans, the airline aims to add more flight frequencies to existing routes, such as Cairo and Erbil that are now served twice a week, as they start to mature, Mr Eidhagen said.

New markets of interest for expansion include those in Commonwealth of Independent State countries, an “untapped region” with potential for business travel by UAE companies investing there and leisure travellers exploring its natural landscape, he said. The airline already operates to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan but also sees opportunities to smaller airports within the CIS countries.

The airline, which operates to 11 points in Europe from its Abu Dhabi base, also sees more opportunities in the Mediterranean region, Mr Eidhagen said.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is also in the “regulatory process” of getting permission to fly to India and Pakistan, which depends on bilateral agreements between the UAE and India, he said.

“I am certain we will be flying to both countries, it's a question of when the process will be concluded,” he added.

In the long-term, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, which currently operates flights within a five-hour flying time, plans to open markets farther afield when it takes delivery of the Airbus A321XLR long-range aircraft in 2026, Mr Eidhagen said.

The new aircraft will give the airline further reach into markets in Asia and Africa, he added.

Overall, it plans to operate a fleet of 50 jets in the next five years, up from 10 currently.

Midfield terminal

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is working with airport authorities on plans to move to the new Midfield terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport ahead of the facility's long-anticipated opening, Mr Eidhagen said.

“Our ambition is to move over into the new terminal, which is built to satisfy more growth and capacity than the existing terminal. It's great for us, it's a great terminal, it looks fantastic, it's more modern and more efficient due to the biometrics technology,” he said. “We look forward to the step-change for Abu Dhabi.”

Mr Eidhagen, however, declined to comment on the timeline for the move but said the airline is in “daily to weekly discussions with the airport on all aspects of the terminal building” to map out operational details.

The Midfield terminal will enable the UAE capital to tap into new source markets and provide the capacity to handle more international passenger traffic once it opens, Saood Al Hosani, undersecretary of the emirate's Department of Culture and Tourism, told The National last month.

Potential hub in Saudi Arabia

The Hungary-based parent airline Wizz Air, which launched several routes from Europe to Saudi Arabia, is continuing talks with the Saudi government to apply for an AOC in the kingdom and create an outbound airline based in the country, Mr Eidhagen said.

The move was earlier raised by Jozsef Varadi, chief executive of Wizz Air, in an interview with The National in August 2022. Mr Eidhagen said discussions are continuing, without providing further details.

The kingdom is pushing to grow its tourism industry, improve air connectivity and develop its non-oil sectors as part of its Vision 2030 plan to reduce the economy's dependence on oil.

Updated: July 27, 2023, 11:31 AM