30 Second Interview: Owain Jones, MD Wizz Air UK
“My involvement with Wizz Air goes back to 2004-05, when I was an external lawyer for them. I was then approached for the General Counsel role, which was very exciting being part of one of the fastest growing airlines in the world…you get a great understanding of what the business wants to achieve”.
Of Wizz Air’s fast-growing UK operation, Jones notes that “Initially, our first flight came into London Luton in 2004, so it has been the UK centre for Wizz Air since the very beginning. Wizz Air’s based operation in the UK began in 2017, and we did that to take some complexity out of our route network – we had quite a lot of W-Pattern flights coming into Luton – and keep things on a simple point-to-point basis”.
“The Wizz Air UK project went from being a Brexit contingency to a commercial proposition”
“The Wizz Air UK project started out as part of our Brexit contingency planning, so we started the process in October 2017…with the UK AOC being in existence from May 2018, and I started in this role [MD, Wizz Air UK] in October 2018. The Monarch bankruptcy freed up capacity in Luton, and meant the WUK operation went from being a Brexit contingency to a commercial proposition in its own right. As we acquired all those slots that allowed us to expand Wizz Air UK quicker than originally planned.”
“With our new Moscow Vnukovo and St Petersburg routes from Luton, we entered the UK-Russia market at a lower price point than has been done before”
“Our core business will always be connecting Central and Eastern Europe with Western Europe. Outside of this, we’ve looked at other opportunities, and Moscow [VKO] / St Petersburg [LED] are two very exciting ones for us [from Luton, launching 01 October]. We will be the only UK carrier operating to St Petersburg, as BA is pulling out. We looked at the market need, and entered with a significantly lower priced product between the UK and Russia than there has been before to stimulate direct demand”.
“Short-haul air travel in Europe is a commodity product…we are now the most efficient airline here”
“Therefore, people want the lowest price, and having the lowest CASK means that’s something we can deliver. We’ve been continuously driving down our unit cost the past few years, and we are now the most efficient airline in Europe. The introduction of the A320/321neo will help us be even more efficient. We have a diverse route network already, from Iceland in the North West to Dubai and Kazakhstan in the east, and fly five hour routes like LTN-TLV. The long range aircraft [coming 2023 onwards] could enable longer sectors within our market”.