Wizz Air To Suspend Moldova Flights, 13 Routes Affected
Wizz Air's decision to halt air service to Chisinau follows rising tensions between Moscow and Moldova’s government.
Wizz Air’s decision to suspend all flights to the Moldovan capital Chisinau due to safety concerns will affect more than a dozen routes during the summer 2023 season.
The Hungarian ULCC plans to cease flying to Moldova from March 14, saying the safety of passengers and crew remains its “number one priority.” It currently serves 12 cities from Chișinău International Airport (KIV) and was due to increase its network to 13 destinations in May.
The decision to suspend air service follows rising tensions between Moscow and Moldova’s government, with a Russian missile targeting Ukraine reportedly entering Moldovan airspace earlier this month.
“Following the recent developments in Moldova and the elevated, but not imminent, risk in the country’s airspace, Wizz Air has made the difficult but responsible decision to suspend all flights to Chisinau from March 14,” the airline said in a statement.
Moldova’s civil aviation authority said Wizz requested approval for its summer 2023 flight schedule on Feb. 14, which was approved on Feb. 27. The agency had determined that flights in Moldova’s airspace “can be carried out safely by following a number of procedures.”
The authority added it "regrets" the decision taken by Wizz but would work with the airline to ensure it returns to Chisinau “as soon as possible.” It will also seek to attract other LCCs.
Moldova, the former Soviet republic sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine with a population of 2.6 million, became a candidate for European Union membership last summer.
However, the country is also home to Transnistria, a separatist pro-Russian region located between the Dniester River and the Ukrainian border that broke away from Moldova in 1990. Some 1,500 Russian soldiers are said to be stationed there.
In recent weeks Moscow has alleged, with no evidence, that Ukraine is preparing “armed provocation” against Transnistria. The claims have been denied by Kyiv and Chisinau, but the move has sparked fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking to drag Moldova into the war.
Wizz launched flights to Chisinau in October 2013, becoming the first ULCC to operate in the country. The airline’s capacity to and from KIV increased from 82,100 seats in 2014 to 782,400 in 2019, OAG data shows. The number of seats offered last year totaled 523,900.
Wizz serves 12 routes from Chisinau at the present time, offering 33 flights per week. Destinations include Barcelona, Berlin, London Luton and Milan Malpensa.
Schedules for the upcoming summer season show that the carrier planned to fly to 13 cities from May onward, up from 12 during winter 2022/23. Hamburg was set to be discontinued during the summer, but flights to Budapest and Larnaca were set to start.
In total, Wizz planned to offer 37 weekly flights and almost 8,500 weekly departure seats from Chisinau during the peak summer season. The airline has now said it plans to move some routes to Iasi, located in eastern Romania near the Moldovan border.
This article was originally published on aviationweek.com.