Wizz Air acquires London Luton slots and reinforces airport’s position as its largest network point

It may brand itself as Central and Eastern Europe’s largest low-cost airline, but Wizz Air’s strategy relies on providing point-to-point connections into western European markets, none more so than London Luton Airport in the UK. While the majority (53.5%) of its current scheduled inventory is from markets across Central and Eastern Europe, and Poland and Romania are its largest home markets, Luton Airport, located around 25 miles north of London in Bedfordshire, is actually its largest network point, accounting for 9.4% of its weekly seats.


Summary:

  • Wizz Air agrees deal with KPMG to acquire “a number” of former Monarch Airlines aircraft slots at London Luton Airport.
  • The airline has expedited growth plans at the London airport growing from a current single aircraft base to seven units from summer 2018.
  • London Luton Airport is the largest point in the Wizz Air network accounting for 9.4% of its weekly seats and linking 46 destinations in 20 countries.

The important role Luton Airport plays in the Wizz Air network is clear when you look at Wizz Air’s biggest routes by capacity with the top six all touching the London airport and linking it to Budapest, Warsaw, Bucharest, Katowice, Gdansk and Sofia, in descending order. However, it was not until Jun-2017 that the airline actually opened a base there, but it has already confirmed plans to grow that presence with the addition of four further 186-seat Airbus A320 aircraft by Jun-2018. The airline has also secured a UK Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) to ensure it can continue to serve the UK market in a post-Brexit environment.

CHART – London Luton Airport is the biggest point on the Wizz Air networkSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG (data: w/c 27-Nov-2017)

Over the past twelve months (to 31-Oct-2017) Wizz Air has carried more than 5.5 million passengers on its Luton routes alone, an increase of 11% compared to 2016, making it the second largest carrier at the airport behind easyJet. It is expanding its capacity at Luton by 15% year on year, and will offer in 2018 more than 6.9 million seats on its 46 routes to 20 countries, including new routes to Bratislava, Slovakia; Larnaca, Cyprus; Lviv, Ukraine; Tallinn, Estonia; and Tirana, Albania.

It has now this week formalised a deal with the administrators of Monarch Airlines to acquire “a number” of take-off and landing slots that were previously held by the defunct carrier at Luton. This will include overnight stands at the airport and will enable it to modify its network strategy.

The airline says this will allow it to further expediate its development at the airport and grow from the planned base fleet of five aircraft for summer 2018 up to seven jets, adding 28 new flights per week and boosting its capacity by almost a fifth (18%).

CHART – Wizz Air’s six biggest routes by capacity all touch London Luton AirportSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG (data: w/c 27-Nov-2017)

“We continue to develop our business in the United Kingdom,” says Jozsef Varadi, CEO, Wizz Air. “Acquiring airport slots and airport nightstands at Luton airport will enable us to enhance our presence and competitive position in the London market.” While he acknowledges that Brexit will “certainly pose challenges” to the airline industry, he sees it as an opportunity for Wizz Air, highlighting its “highly efficient low fare model will prevail even more under the new circumstances”.

While Wizz Air may not be as large as easyJet and Ryanair across the European market, it is larger than both in Central and Eastern European markets and is the number one carrier across many of these country markets, including being the de facto national carrier in some.

According to the CAPA – Centre for Aviation Fleet Database it currently operates a fleet of 87 Airbus A320 Family aircraft with an outstanding commitment for 282 aircraft, including neo examples of both the A320 and A321 to replace its existing fleet and expand its operation. This number was recently boosted by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Airbus on the purchase of further 72 A320neo and 74 A321neo aircraft as part of a wider Indigo Partners commitment.

TABLE – Wizz Air has recently upgauged by adding the A321 to its longstanding A320 operation. In the future it will operate both the A320neo and A321neoSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation Fleet Database

The older generation A320ceo and A321ceo aircraft will be delivered through to early 2019 with an earlier commitment for 110 A321neo aircraft due between 2019 and 2014. The additional 72 A320neo and 74 A321neo aircraft are due from 2022, with the bulk of the aircraft to be delivered in 2025 and 2026.