Wizz Air Abu Dhabi commenced services today with its first flight to Athens, Greece from Abu Dhabi, UAE. With this highly-anticipated launch, Wizz Air CEO József Váradi spoke with Simple Flying about what to expect from this new venture. The executive sees plenty of room for development and is already thinking ahead about aircraft additions and destination expansions.
Officially in the skies
Flight WAZ7007 left Abu Dhabi at 13:15 and is presently in the air, just passing over Israel on the way to the capital of Greece. Athens was chosen as Wizz Air Abu Dhabi’s inaugural destination as Greece was on a ‘green list’ of countries, meaning travel between the country and the UAE was unrestricted amid the global health crisis.
This factor has now changed, but the airline decided to go ahead with the launch in this manner. Ultimately, the company is delighted about welcoming its first passengers onboard its aircraft to experience its new offering.
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The right location
The UAE has been a hotspot for travelers amid the ongoing worldwide restrictions. The country has managed to find a balanced way of dealing with restrictions to allow holidaymakers to visit safely.
Váradi is looking forward to transporting visitors to witness a vibrant mix of Middle Eastern culture, unique Islamic architecture, and sandy beaches. From the Abu Dhabi base, the airline will fly to the likes of Alexandria, Kutaisi, Larnaca, Odesa, and Yerevan. However, there are already additional destinations on the cards, with the announcement of a Tel Aviv route just yesterday.
However, the expansions aren’t stopping there. Váradi shared that he is excited about more growth opportunities following today’s launch. Notably, there will be plenty more A321neos joining the carrier’s fleet over the next decade to help it expand across the region. It’s not only in the core Middle East area that the airline will focus on.
There is potential to serve many neighboring countries in all directions. The businessman explains that Abu Dhabi is a scalable market and has a growing economy. These factors support his business’ plans to develop and diversify its route network to multiple locations.
Overall, the firm sees growth in Abu Dhabi comparable to what it has been able to achieve in Europe. So, there are significant opportunities to expand through the stimulation of new markets, as opposed to attracting passengers who would have flown with other airlines.
“We are looking at a larger scale start than what was originally planned, with six aircraft starting within the first six months. Over the longer term, we expect that Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will operate 50 aircraft within 10 years, providing millions of passengers with more ultra-low-cost connections in the Middle East,” Váradi told Simple Flying.
“Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will serve markets within a five-hour radius from Abu Dhabi – East, West, North and South. We are talking about billions of people living in this catchment area. The evolution of our network design will be driven by our ability to access markets and routes based on air political developments. We will announce new routes as and when they happen.”
A confident approach
There have been some skeptics about Wizz’ decision to base an airline in the UAE. They question the presence of a European low-cost carrier in the Middle East. However, Váradi assures that the move is a positive one. He shares how the company has the right backing and approach to take on the market.
“Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, which powerfully combines the market insights provided by ADQ, Abu Dhabi’s prominent investment arm, and Wizz Air’s airline operational excellence and experience. This will provide us with a lot of opportunities to introduce new connections to Abu Dhabi and create further choices for travellers in currently served markets,” Váradi added.
“Our objective is to grow the airline in a way that directly benefits Abu Dhabi and its economy. Our expansion strategy focuses on stimulating travel demand with our low-cost offer, thereby bringing more traffic to Abu Dhabi, helping to ramp up tourism and ultimately boosting its economy.”
Altogether, Wizz Air’s plans in Abu Dhabi fit in with its wider targets this decade. The firm is keen to maintain its position as the undisputed lowest-cost outfit in the industry and wants to quadruple passenger numbers in the next ten years. Moreover, its ultimate goal is to be the preferred airline of every country where it operates.
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi kicked off during a considerably difficult time in the aviation industry amid a severe downturn in passenger activity as a result of stringent ongoing travel restrictions. However, by planting the seeds in the market now, the airline will be well-positioned once demand picks up again, and it can reach its overall targets by the time the decade is over.
What are your thoughts about the launch of Wizz Air Abu Dhabi today with its flight to Athens? What do you expect from the airline throughout the decade? Let us know what you think of the carrier’s prospects in the comment section.
Southwest Airlines Receives The Final $860m In Government Aid
Southwest Airlines has received the final installment of its two-part government aid package. Coming from the previous round of government support passed at the end of 2020, the airline took its first disbursement in January and has now received the second for an amount of over $860 million.
Southwest receives another $860 million in government support
On March 5th, Southwest Airlines reported receiving the second and final disbursement under the federal government’s Payroll Support Program (PSP). First enacted in the early days of the crisis, the airline industry received the second round of government support at the tail end of 2020, with disbursements coming in mid-January.
Southwest received a second and final payment of $863,685,200 from the US Department of the Treasury on March 5th. This is the final disbursement of the $1,727,370,400 that the airline was expected to receive under the agreement with the Treasury.
Southwest has provided the Treasury Department an increase of the promissory note to the tune of $259,105,560. This took the airline’s overall promissory note, in the aggregate, to $488,211,120. Southwest has also issued warrants under the agreement to the Treasury Department to purchase up to 1,054,907 shares of Southwest’s stocks.
The second round of support
Southwest Airlines received the second round of support due to a massive relief package passed at the end of 2020. The airline industry was rallying for additional funding under the PSP program. The second round of support includes conditions similar to the first, in that airlines, have to recall furloughed workers through the end of March and continue flying to a prescribed minimum number of points.
Even before the initial package ran out at the end of September, airlines were gearing up the fight with their unions and industry support groups for another round of government aid. Though delayed, that aid finally came through. Now, however, there is another fight to get additional government support through the fall in the US.
The state of affairs at Southwest
Southwest Airlines posted an annual loss in 2020, representing the difficulty of the year for the industry, as it was the first annual loss in over 40 years for Southwest Airlines. The airline typically has a lot of strengths that allow it to be successful.
For example, Southwest had to face a less dire liquidity situation at the start of the crisis because it got saved by a little over a month or two of cancellations and refunds for expensive long-haul international journeys. Domestic pressure lagged international, so Southwest escaped a little of the early brunt of the crisis, but the airline still had a difficult time.
Southwest had threatened there would be some furloughs at the end of 2020, though it appears now that the airline has the support it needs to avoid furloughs for some time, hopefully. The airline industry expects a robust domestic rebound, buoyed by improved March expectations, that should give Southwest a boost. The airline is adding plenty of new warm-weather and outdoor leisure-friendly destinations, like Bozeman in Montana, that should help it keep its planes more full.
For now, however, the government support will help Southwest keep all of its employees employed and on the payroll, but as April rolls around and the protection of government support runs out, Southwest will need to hope the improved travel environment lasts for a few months to give the airline a much-needed revenue boost.
Are you glad to see Southwest Airlines receive the second disbursement of government support? Let us know in the comments!
American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX encounters technical problem; returns to service next day
American Airlines flight AA2555 from Miami (MIA) to Newark (EWR) declared an emergency on Friday, March 5th, after it encountered a mechanical issue during the flight. According to American Airlines, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 was en route to Newark Airport when the aircraft experienced a mechanical issue prompting the flight crew to shut down one engine as a precaution and declared an emergency. The Chicago-based carrier, also stated that flight AA2555 had 95 passengers and six crew onboard, but landed safely at Newark Airport without further incident.
American Airlines reiterate that this particular incident was not the result of an engine failure or an issue with the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). The airline added that the issue was possibly related to an engine oil pressure or volume indicator. Aircraft manufacturer, Boeing has stated that it was aware of the incident, while the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) acknowledged that it would be monitoring the investigation closely.
American Airlines flight AA2555 registered N327SK, departed Miami International Airport at 12:40 EST and after declaring an emergency the aircraft touched down safely at New York’s Newark Airport just after 15:28 local time, according to data from Flightradar24. The aircraft was also able to taxi to the gate and passengers and crew were able to disembark the plane normally and the airline has reported that there were no injuries. The aircraft registrations website, planespotter.net states that this particular Boeing 737 MAX 8 was delivered to American Airlines at the end of last year having spent almost a full year on the ground. However, this aircraft has already completed a number of flights since it returned to commercial service way back in February.
Back in November 2020, the FAA Director, Steve Dickson said, “it is inevitable that at some time in the future, a Boeing 737 MAX will turn back to its originating airport, divert, or land at its destination with an actual or suspected in-flight problem, while these events can be inconvenient and unsettling to passengers, they occur virtually every day in our national airspace system.”
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 involved in this particular incident has since returned to commercial service and has successfully completed its flight to Miami International Airport from New York’s Newark Airport. Meanwhile, recent data from the aviation analytics firm, Cirium, has recorded over 1,300 flights worldwide using the Boeing 737 MAX up until March 3rd, with American Airlines operating almost 400 of these flights.
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US And EU Agree To Suspend Aircraft Tariffs For Four Months
The United States and the European Union agreed this week to suspend all retaliatory tariffs exports between the two imposed in the Airbus and Boeing disputes for a period of four months. This move will allow both parties to concentrate on resolving the ongoing trade dispute between the pair.
Back and forth
In October 2019, the US was given the approval to impose additional duties on approximately $7.5 billion in EU products as a result of the World Trade Organization Large Civil Aircraft litigation. Moreover, in September 2020 the EU was authorized to impose tariffs affecting $4 billion in US trade against US subsidies to Boeing.
A series of other counters were made along the way. Nonetheless, with a breakthrough in talks this month, the European Commission shares that the suspension offers an important boost to exporters.
After a call with US president Joe Biden on March 5th, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, shared the following on her Twitter:
“As a fresh start for our Flag of European UnionFlag of United States partnership we agreed to suspend all tariffs related to the Airbus-Boeing disputes on aircraft & non-aircraft products for an initial period of 4 months. We also committed to solving these disputes.”
On the right track
Meanwhile, European Commission EVP and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, added the following, according to a statement seen by Simple Flying.
“This is a significant step forward. It marks a reset in our relationship with our biggest and economically most important partner. Removing these tariffs is a win-win for both sides, at a time when the pandemic is hurting our workers and our economies. This suspension will help restore confidence and trust, and therefore give us the space to come to a comprehensive and long-lasting negotiated solution. A positive EU-U.S. trade relationship is important not only to the two sides but to global trade at large.”
Some light at the end of the tunnel
Altogether, we reported last month that France was discussing solutions with the US to find a solution to these tariffs. Furthermore, the US has also agreed to drop UK tariffs in the Airbus-Boeing dispute. So, fortunately, there is now progress when it comes to ending this saga.
Simple Flying reached out to Airbus and Boeing for comment on these reports. We will update the article with any further announcements from the carrier.
What are your thoughts about the United States and the European Union agreeing to suspend tariffs in the Airbus and Boeing dispute? Do you feel that this is a good move by both parties? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.
Happy Birthday Belavia – The Belarusian Flag Carrier Turns 25
Yesterday marked a quarter of a century since Belavia Belarusian Airlines was formally founded. The carrier serves approximately 60 destinations in the modern era and presently has a fleet size of 28 aircraft. Let’s take a look at Belarus’ national carrier’s journey over the years.
A long time coming
Even though Belavia is a relatively new airline compared to other flag carriers in the industry, its history actually begins on November 7th, 1933. This date was when the first Belarusian air terminal opened in Minsk. Three Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes arrived in the following spring, and they would become the first planes in Belarus’ air fleet. Three years later, the first regular route between Minsk and Moscow was formed. Then, as the 1940s got underway, the Belarusian civil aviation group was officially established.
Belarus registered a Tupolev Tu-124 in 1964 before the then-new Tupolev Tu-134A began flying in the country in 1973. Belarusian aviation then started operating the new Tupolev Tu-154s in 1983.
The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 caused a butterfly effect across several economies in Eastern Europe. After gaining independence from the USSR, changes were subsequently made with Belarus’ industries. Therefore, Belavia was officially founded on March 5th, 1996. This move followed a resolution of the government on restructuring air transport in the nation after the local Aeroflot subsidiary was nationalized and renamed.
A strong start
FlightGlobal notes that during the year of its founding, Belarus was showing its commitment to retaining economic and military ties with Moscow. With this in mind, Belavia was looking to feed both Aeroflot and Aer Lingus at Shannon International Airport.
Regular routes across Europe were launched. Passengers could fly to the likes of Rome, Istanbul, Larnaca, London, and Prague with the newly formed outfit. Even flights as far as Beijing were operating in the years that followed. In 1998, the airline merged with MinskAvia and took on several new planes, including the Yakovlev Yak-40, Antonov An-24, and Antonov An-26.
Scheduled flights to Paris from Minsk began with Tu-134s and Tu-154s in May 2001. Then, in 2003 later, Belavia launched its inflight magazine, named Horizons, which was published in English, Russian and Belarusian. However, it was this year when a significant accident happened on one of its services. A Yak-40 suffered a shattered windshield when entering Czech airspace. Subsequently, two Czech Air Force fighters had to escort the plane to a safe landing in Prague.
Belavia upgraded its fleet in the fall of 2003, leasing its first Boeing 737-500 aircraft. The following year it expanded further and took on another 737. Passenger numbers doubled between this year and just over half a decade later, allowing the airline to serve nearly 700,000 passengers in 2009. This growth was aided by the introduction of CRJ100 aircraft for regional services.
There was also another incident on February 14th, 2008, when one of the airline’s CRJ100ERs hit its left wing on the runway at Yerevan, Armenia during takeoff. The plane then crashed on the ground and flipped over, causing injuries to seven people. Despite the plane going up in flames, nobody died in the accident as everyone managed to escape in time.
The carrier emphasizes that it holds the leading position in passenger air transport in the Belarusian market. It also holds importance in providing regular and punctual operations.
“Belavia is a modern, rapidly growing company that meets requirements of the latest innovations in air transport and is constantly focused on further development and improvement of the airline and attraction of greater number of passengers. Among the priorities of Belavia is its fleet renewal, optimization of resources, implementation of modern information technologies and improvement of service level both in flight and on the ground,” the airline shares on its website.
“The Airline is customer-oriented and makes its best efforts to provide air traveling possibilities both by its own direct flights and those of its partners to continue their journey immediately to any country in the world as per customer’s needs. Business travelers and tourists can appreciate at its true value Belarusian hospitality and responsible attitude of the airline staff to fulfillment of their functions. Owing to the cooperative team of highly qualified professionals who are proud of their work, for the short period of time Belavia has showed itself as a reliable and competitive air carrier.”
Preparing for the future
Today, Belavia is a well-balanced airline and has replaced its aged aircraft with a balance of regional and short to medium-haul models. According to Planespotters.net, the airline holds 15 Boeing 737s, five Embraer ERJ-175s, seven Embraer ERJ-195s, and an Embraer E195-E2. The E2 only just arrived at the end of last year and is the first of three to arrive at the operator’s facilities via lease by AerCap. These planes will prove worthwhile as the carrier looks to recover following the industry-wide impact of the global health crisis.
Altogether, it has been a short but eventful history for Belavia. The airline undoubtedly used the experience of Belarusian aviation to help it get going in its early years. Nonetheless, it’s still only the beginning for the airline. It has shown that it is making moves to keep up to date in the market.
What are your thoughts about Belavia Belarusian Airlines’ operations? Have you flown with the carrier over the years? Let us know what you think of the operator and its services in the comment section.
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