Wizz Air in seventh heaven in Warsaw market

Warsaw was one of the first destinations Wizz Air brought its low fares to in 2004 and since then it has carried more than 13 million passengers on a network that has grown to 48 routes across 25 countries, growing annual numbers beyond the 1.5 million figure last year.

The largest low-cost airline in Central and Eastern Europe, Wizz Air, is to base a seventh aircraft at its Warsaw Chopin Airport base to deliver seven new routes to its summer 2017 flight schedule. From June 2017 the airline will start operating new services connecting the Polish capital with four other Central and Eastern European capitals, Bratislava, Bucharest, Kiev and Vilnius and three popular leisure destinations, Lyon and Nice in France and Lamezia Terme in Italy.

Warsaw was one of the first destinations Wizz Air brought its low fares to in 2004 and since then it has carried more than 13 million passengers on a network that has grown to 48 routes across 25 countries, growing annual numbers beyond the 1.5 million figure last year. The arrival of the seventh based aircraft follows the deployment of a sixth unit at Warsaw this summer from May 2016 which facilitated the addition of new leisure routes such as Eilat in Israel, Porto in Portugal, Reykjavik in Iceland and Naples in Italy. 

The Warsaw fleet will consist of four Airbus A320ceos and three larger A321ceos, which with 230-seats will enable the airline to boost its offer in existing markets without needing to add new flight frequencies, while at the same time taking advantage of its better operating economics to the smaller variant. This will see Wizz Air’s annual offer grow to more than 2.6 million seats, a 22% growth on this year.

The new routes will launch from June 30, 2017 with four times weekly flights to Bratislava and Bucharest; three times weekly links to Kiev and Nice and twice weekly connections to Lamezia Terme and Lyon. A four times weekly link to Vilnius in Lithuania will be added from September 18, 2017. This is a notable lead time for the launch of new short-haul routes in Europe (11 months in the case of Vilnius).

“Warsaw was one of the first cities we added to the Wizz Air network in 2004 and over the past 12 years, we earned the trust and loyalty of our Polish customers,” said József Váradi, chief executive officer, Wizz Air. “Adding a seventh aircraft to our Warsaw fleet we create more local jobs and add four new countries accessible on Wizz Air’s low fares from Warsaw’s main airport to provide even more low-fare travel opportunities for both business and leisure travellers.”

Data from OAG Schedules Analyser shows that Warsaw is the fifth largest city market in the Wizz Air network behind Gdansk, Bucharest, Budapest and London: the latter being the largest destination with flights from almost 40 points across Central and Eastern Europe into Luton Airport and from Bucharest into Gatwick Airport. This summer Warsaw accounted for a 4.3 percent share of the airline’s total flights, rising to a 4.4 percent share of capacity due to the use of larger A321ceo equipment on some flights.

The airline has grown its summer presence from Warsaw’s Chopin Airport by 125.0 percent since 2006, a compound average growth rate of 8.45 percent. This summer its schedule comprised over 3,850 departures from the Polish capital offering almost 710,000 seats in each direction – its largest ever. Its forthcoming winter schedule will offer almost 410,000 seats in each direction, up 12.3 percent on last year and also its largest inventory for the period.

Across Poland, in 2016 Wizz Air has expanded its Poland operations to a significant extent, adding its eighth Polish airport, Olsztyn-Mazury, 38 new routes and 16 destinations to its low-fare network. With the latest expansion of its Warsaw fleet, by June 2017, Wizz Air will have 22 aircraft based in the country offering 147 routes to 66 destinations from eight Polish airports.

LCC banks on Santander market being open for stimulation

Ahead of the arrival of the third A321ceo, Wizz Air will also introduce flights between Warsaw and Santander in Cantabria from the end of March 2017. The twice weekly A321ceo flights will commence from March 31, 2017 and will operate on Mondays and Fridays to support weekday and long weekend traffic. Santander’s Seve Ballesteros Airport, named after the famous golf player born in Pedreña, a few kilometres from the facility, will be the airline’s 12th destination in Spain.

This is the airline’s first scheduled link into this autonomous community in northern Spain and it believes the new route will stimulate the local job market in the aviation and tourism sectors as consumers take advantage of the low fares to travel between Cantabria and the Polish capital.

“We hope that Cantabria will benefit from the inflow of tourists from Poland which could stimulate job creation in tourism and hospitality sectors. On the other hand we are also confident that Spanish consumers will appreciate visiting Warsaw, a dynamic Eastern European capital that is known as the city of palaces, royal gardens and grand parks  - all within easy reach of the conveniently located Chopin Airport,” said an airline spokesman.

Santander witnessed a significant growth in traffic during the second half of the last decade after Ryanair introduced low-fare services into the city. This helped annual traffic to grow from less than 300,000 passengers in 2003 to almost one million at the end of the decade.  This landmark was passed in 2011 and 2012, but numbers have subsequently slipped with notable double-digit year-on-year declines in 2013, 2014 and 2015 as Ryanair has scaled back its presence.

Alongside a long-standing hub link to Madrid through Iberia and its regional partner Air Nostrum, Santander is also currently linked to Las Palmas and Lisbon (new for 2016) by the national carrier.  It has also welcomed flights from Air Europa to Alicante, Barcelona and Seville; Volotea to Ibiza, Mahon, Seville and Venice; Vueling to Alicante, Paris, Palma and Tenerife (adding to existing Barcelona link) in recent years.

However, Ryanair remains the largest operator at the airport, albeit its network has reduced from 18 destinations and a 78.6 capacity share in 2012 to eleven points and a 53.4 share this year.  This network comprises domestic links to Barcelona, Malaga and Tenerife plus key international non-stop connectivity to Bergamo, Berlin, Brussels Charleroi, Dublin, Dusseldorf Weeze, Edinburgh, London Stansted and Rome Ciampino.