Wizz Air’s highly anticipated Abu Dhabi subsidiary finally took off in January this year. Although its growth has been impressive, given the current situation, its network has been heavily influenced by the Abu Dhabi green list.
The growth of Wizz Air Abu Dhabi
Despite having its launch pushed back several times in the wake of the pandemic, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi finally took off in January. Growth has been slow and steady, with only four aircraft and six destinations today. Speaking exclusively with Simple Flying, Group CCO George Michalopoulos noted that the growth, so far, has been largely dictated by the Abu Dhabi green list.
“We currently have operations to Egypt, to Greece, to Moldova, to Serbia, to Cyprus and Ukraine. So we’re gradually building up our presence. This is largely driven by what countries are on Abu Dhabi’s safe travel corridor and green list. These are all countries with the exception of Egypt, Ukraine and Moldova, which are which are on the list.”
Sticking to green list destinations is a strategy familiar to many low-cost carriers at the present time. In the UK, we’ve seen numerous airlines laying on capacity as destinations turn green, and then pulling it off again as they move back to amber.
For Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, starting off small was always the plan. As more destinations are deemed safe to travel to from the airline’s home, the network will continue to grow. Michalopoulos explained,
“We’re progressively growing this base and from next month we have Azerbaijan starting. That’s another green list country. We are going to be continuing to grow as restrictions are eased. Restrictions both from a pandemic standpoint, but also restrictions from a bilateral, regulatory framework sense.”
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Abu Dhabi’s green list
Abu Dhabi’s green list has been a moving feast. Initially fairly restrictive, the nation has been adding new destinations on a fairly regular basis, but has also been taking some off. The mid-June update saw Denmark, Finland and Norway added, while Russia and Kyrgyzstan were removed.
The latest update was released a couple of days ago, and saw a total of 35 countries included on the safe travel list. Joining the previous countries were Albania, Armenia, Belgium, Canada, France, Hungary, Jordan, Netherlands, Ireland, Romania, Seychelles, Turkmenistan, and Vatican City.
Not many of these are destinations that would be viable for Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, but a couple of places stand out as being potential additions. Albania, Armenia, Romania and Jordan are all well within the ULCC’s reach. However, decisions on network additions will be based on passenger demand to those destinations, as well as the reciprocal welcoming of arrivals from Abu Dhabi.
All three are open to arrivals at present, although Jordan and Armenia require a PCT test to be taken before flying unless passengers are fully vaccinated. Jordan requires a second PCR test on arrival. Albania is open to all, with no PCR requirements.
However, Abu Dhabi itself is implementing stricter entry requirements from Monday, July 19th. From that day, arrivals from green list countries will be required to take a PCR test on day three after arriving, and also on day seven if staying for longer than a week. This applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.
As with all airlines, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will be finding these ever-changing restrictions tricky for planning, but it’s not in any hurry. Growth will be steady, measured and laser focussed on profitability, putting the airline in a strong position for the future.