By Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo
Wizz Air Expands Network to Saudi Arabia in Agreement with Government
Wizz Air, a Hungarian airline and a top-three low-cost carrier in Europe as measured by the number of passengers carried, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia to launch 20 new routes from Central and Eastern Europe to Saudi Arabia.
The carrier has expanded rapidly since the coronavirus pandemic began but the easing of restrictions on Covid-19 and the elimination of PCR testing requirements for vaccinated travelers have made travel easier again, allowing travelers to move abroad more easily. Due to these new reopenings and strong demand for tourism, Wizz Air was able to sign the memorandum with the Saudi government. However, the initiative was initiated by the Saudi Ministry of Tourism, which aims to improve the development of the country’s tourism sector.
The new flights will operate from 11 cities in Europe to the Saudi Arabian cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. Those cities include:
• Bucharest, Romania
• Budapest, Hungary
• Catania, Italy
• Larnaca, Cyprus
• Milan, Italy
• Naples, Italy
• Rome, Italy
• Sofia, Bulgaria
• Tirana, Albania
• Venice, Italy
• Vienna, Austria
The new routes will greatly strengthen Wizz Air’s presence in the country, boosting the growing Saudi tourism sector and contributing to the Vision 2030 program, which plans to triple the country’s passenger traffic by 2030. It has been estimated by Wizz Air that this expansion will bring more than 1 million additional travelers to Saudi Arabia next year.
Wizz Air was already planning from May 2022 to start operations and open a branch in Saudi Arabia after doing so in Abu Dhabi in 2020.
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi LLC is based at Abu Dhabi International Airport in the United Arab Emirates. The company is a joint venture with the state-owned ADQ — formerly Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company, ADDH — which owns 51%, and Wizz Air Holdings owning the remaining 49%. Flights began in November 2020 with two Airbus A321neo aircraft, which Saudi tourism forecasts predict will grow to 50 in the next few years.
However, the Hungarian low-cost carrier’s goal is to expand in the medium term to Africa and India to offer four-to-five-hour, domestic and international, low-cost Airbus A321 flights, thus serving a potential pool of 5 billion people.
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi recently already sought approval from authorities in 2021 to launch flights to the Indian subcontinent and hopes to begin operations in 2022-23 after approval. Airfares between the UAE and the Indian subcontinent have doubled in recent months due to high demand and low capacity.
Wizz Air is therefore targeting markets not yet taken by other low-cost competitors such as Ryanair and Easyjet, which are mainly active in Europe.