The Greek market is not new for Central and Eastern Europe low cost specialist Wizz Air where it has had a presence since 2004, however, summer 2018 will see its biggest commitment as it more than quadruples its activities and makes its debut at Athens International Airport. The budget carrier will launch a network of 30 weekly flights to eight destinations from Athens next year, including daily connections to Bucharest, Budapest (from Sep-2018) and Sofia.
Wizz Air currently serves Corfu, Heraklion, Rhodes, Thessaloniki and Zakynthos in Greece, but says that Athens has been one of its most requested destinations for a number of years. It believes its new flights will further stimulate both inbound and outbound tourism and improve business ties between the countries. Alongside Bucharest, Budapest and Sofia, it will also introduce links from Chisinau, Cluj-Napoca, Katowice, Kutaisi and Vilnius, spreading its Athens network to seven countries.
Since it made its debut in Greece in 2004, Wizz Air has carried more than 557,000 passengers on its limited network into the country. In the first nine months of 2017 its traffic to and from Greece grew by 45% compared to the same period last year, handling over 87,000 passengers and this latest growth will see its network rise 447% in 2018, with a total of more than 600,000 seats across 16 routes. That is more capacity in one year than passengers it has carried in the country in 13 years.
The arrival of Wizz Air at Athens International Airport will boost the share of low cost carriers at the facility, the largest air gateway into Greece. The segment accounts for over one in five international seats with Ryanair currently the largest operator, behind local operators Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air.
Wizz Air’s continued network growth is being driven by the arrival of additional Airbus A320 and A321 ceo variants, and shortly these will be joined by the first of its A321neo jets providing the flexibility to both replace the older generation equipment and also support capacity growth. According to the CAPA Fleet Database, Wizz Air currently operates a fleet of 86 aircraft (64 A320s and 22 A321s) and has eight A320s, 19 A321s and 110 A321neos on order.
CHART – A projected delivery schedule shows Wizz Air will receive at least ten aircraft a year arriving over the remainder of the decade, more during the 2020s as increasing neo models join its fleetSource: CAPA Fleet Database
The network selection from Wizz Air also highlights the idiosyncrasies of network planning and how an individual city pair market can have a clear tipping point for air service. In this case it is the Lithuanian capital Vilnius which from next summer will be connected to Athens in a big way.
Jurate Baltrusaityte, chief commercial officer, Lithuanian Airports confirms its air service development team has been working for three years to get Athens on the route map from Vilnius. Now, within the space of just one month they have been rewarded with three announcements that will see seven weekly connections offering 2500 new seats between Vilnius and Athens next summer. Wizz Air will be the first to market with flights starting 27-Apr-2018, followed by Ryanair from 10-May-2018 and Aegean Air from 02-Jun-2018. As she acknowledges on Linkedin: “most probably you know the feeling – you wait hours for a bus and then three come along at once. Well, it’s not a bus this time rather a plane.”