Wizz Air to open Vienna base with three based aircraft and 17 new routes; appears at first not to target easyJet or Eurowings
Wizz Air has announced that it will add Austria to its network from April, with it becoming the airline’s 44th country market. Initially, the airline will serve the Austrian capital from three bases starting in April – Gdansk, Tuzla and Varna – before stationing one A320 in Vienna from 14 June, allowing it to open a further five routes for the summer season. Then for W18/19 it will add a further two A321s to its new base, which will enable the airline to open a further nine services. Vienna become’s the airline’s second base in Western Europe after London Luton. A breakdown of the routes that Wizz Air will open from Vienna can be seen in the table, along with the direct competition the airline will face at the initial opening of the services.
|Launch date||From||Days of operation||Competition from week of launch (WF)|
|14-Jun||Malta (MLA)*||2,4,6||Air Malta (9)|
|Rome Fiumicino (FCO)||1,2,3,4,5,6,7||Eurowings (20), Vueling (6)|
|15-Jun||Bari (BRI)||1,3,5,7||Austrian Airlines (1)|
|Tel Aviv (TLV)*||1,3,5,7||Austrian Airlines (18), El Al (11)|
|Thessaloniki (SKG)||2,4,6||Austrian Airlines (4)|
|Larnaca (LCA)||1,3,5,7||Austrian Airlines (11)|
|27-Nov||Tenerife South (TFS)||2,4,6|
|Source: Wizz Air and OAG Schedules Analyser data. WF = weekly frequency. * routes will see a frequency increase for W18/19.|
The initial findings show that Wizz Air will only face direct competition on six of the routes that it will open from Vienna, with Austrian Airlines being the most prevalent competitor, going head-to-head on four city pairs. What is interesting is that Wizz Air appears not to be going after Eurowings or easyJet, both with well-established bases at Vienna, with the former only competing on one sector, and with the latter not serving any of Wizz Air’s planned destinations. This may be a factor as to why Wizz Air has chosen not to serve Luton, its number one airport, from Vienna, with this sector already being flown by easyJet four times weekly this coming summer. It should be noted that Eurowings does operate between Vienna and Dortmund, however its service on the city pair is currently not bookable past 26 October, with Eurowings’ schedule for next winter still being planned. Only two of the routes launched by Wizz Air will initially be served daily, namely Rome Fiumicino and Dortmund, but Tel Aviv will become a daily operation from 7 November. Along with Tel Aviv seeing a frequency increase, both Malta and Valencia will see an additional weekly service in W18/19.
Impact on Bratislava
While Wizz Air is a new brand to Vienna, and indeed Austria, the ULCC already has a presence some 80 kilometres away from the Austrian capital across the border in Slovakia – Bratislava. On initial inspection, Wizz Air’s new route to Vienna from Tuzla is an operational switch from the Slovakian capital, with the last flight between Tuzla and Bratislava scheduled for 23 April. The other five routes that Wizz Air operates to Bratislava, namely Kiev Zhulyany, Sofia, Skopje, Warsaw Chopin and from March Luton, appear to be unaffected by the Vienna strategy.
Although it is not direct competition, it should be noted that Ryanair does offer routes from Bratislava to Malta, Rome Ciampino, Thessaloniki, Nis, Paphos and Bourgas, sectors which could be seen as ULCC competition for Wizz Air’s new Vienna routes to Malta, Fiumicino, Thessaloniki, Nis, Larnaca and Varna.
Should break into Vienna’s top 12 this year
Wizz Air states that it will offer 450,000 seats on its Austrian routes in 2018, with it operating 69 weekly flights by the end of the year from Vienna. Based on current schedules, that size of operation would place Wizz Air as Vienna’s 11th largest airline in 2018 (highlighted in purple below), sitting above Spanish LCC Vueling, a carrier which will see an enhanced presence in the Austrian, German and Swiss region this year thanks to IAG’s purchase of NIKI. However, while NIKI is an Austrian airline, its operation at Vienna currently is small enough not to allow Vueling to offer more seats than Wizz Air from the Austrian capital this year. Nonetheless, IAG’s purpose for NIKI will become more clear in the coming weeks, although it may have to re-adjust its plans following Wizz Air’s announcement.
Wizz Air informs that its average load factor for 2017 was just over 91%, having carried 28.27 million passengers between 1 January and 31 December. The load factor recorded last year increased by 2.3 percentage points from the 89% the ULCC delivered in 2016. If the carrier was to achieve the same increase in 2018, it would put the carrier’s average load factor for this year at just under 94%. With the airline poised to offer 450,000 seats from Vienna this year, the carrier could potentially carry over 420,000 passengers based on a 94% load factor. Given that the Austrian capital is a new market for the airline, anna.aero predicts that the carrier will be hoping to carry around 411,000 passengers based on the average load factor recorded in 2017.