Wizz Air opens a new hub in Abu Dhabi with cheap flights from Europe

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As the best capitalised airline in Europe – and even stronger now that the UK Government gave the Hungarian company a £300 million soft loanWizz Air is pushing on with its expansion.

This new venture does look interesting, I must admit.

Wizz Air has set up a joint venture with state-owned Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company to form a new subsidiary.  Branded as Wizz Air, it will operate flights from Abu Dhabi to Europe, the Indian subcontinent, Middle East and Africa.

Wizz Air opens a new hub in Abu Dhabi

The first routes are now on sale.  As the Abu Dhabi hub is not yet operational, the first wave of flights will operate 2-3 times per week from existing Wizz Air bases in Europe.  The launch dates are:

  • Budapest – Abu Dhabi (3rd June)
  • Bucharest – Abu Dhabi (3rd June)
  • Katowice – Abu Dhabi (15th September)
  • Sofia – Abu Dhabi (15th September)
  • Cluj-Napoca (Romania) – Abu Dhabi (15th September)

I can see fares as low as £150 return out of Budapest during October, although checked baggage would increase that sharply.

Wizz Air does not have the aircraft to fly directly from the UK to Abu Dhabi at present, but this will change.  The airline has 20 Airbus A321XLR aircraft on order.  This is same aircraft type that Aer Lingus has ordered to allow it to serve more of the United States from Dublin using a short-haul plane.

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  1. The Original David says:

    I can’t help thinking that calling the A321XLR a “short-haul plane” is a mistake – its range will be 4,700 miles…

    • I think the point Rob is trying to make is that it *looks* like a shorthaul plane!

      • flyforfun says:

        Short haul looks and features, long haul pain.

        One of the things that makes long haul flying are the little creature comforts that you don’t get in short haul European flights. IFE, slightly more room (maybe!), a tiny 3 course meal and drinks, blanket and pillows, snacks (maybe again!) and maybe an amenity kit if you are really lucky.

        Don’t know much about Wizz Air but do they offer anything like that on their lh fights?

        • I doubt Wizz will but plenty of other airlines venturing into the longhaul market with these aircraft, which come with classic amenities. Bigger problem is the single aisle, which makes moving round the aircraft much more of a pain on longhaul flights.

          • I see this as an absolute game changer, but not for most readers of this site. The A321XLR allegedly has a range of 8700km so even working on 7500km this map shows the wide choice of destinations.

            Whilst some of these cities have some direct flights from London, people from all over Africa are all over Europe, so being able to fly from say Stockholm to Juba or Liverpool to Ahmedabad will never be direct, but may work out much more possible for passengers, and lucrative for Wizz who will be able to bring their ultra low costs to these routes.
            I’ve flown wizz to Belgrade, Budapest and Brno and the only difference from the Ryanair service was the colour of the seats, so it’s safe to say flying up to 7 hours will not be comfortable, but for people wanting to visit friends and relatives cheaply it will add lots of new options.

        • one of my most uncomfortable and unpleasant flights was a DOH-BKK sector last year with Qatar in the window seat of a 10 abreast 777

          if you’ve got a large person beside you in Economy it’s almost always going to be grim

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Single aisle planes are rarely associated with long haul flights.

      • Marcw says:

        What about the 757?

        • Doug M says:

          Indeed. I think the smaller of the 757 variants is very similar in size to the A321.

      • Doug M says:

        I think this will become the more common definition, single aisle versus two aisle.

        • Haven’t we had this distinction for years as wide-body and narrow-body?

        • Lady London says:

          Are these little aircraft safe over water? Not sure how much extra fuel they can carry and they only have 2 engines, right?

          • marcw says:

            In which world do you live? 4 engine planes are now the least common crossing “water”. 777, 330, 350, 787 all have 2 engines.
            And def 32X family or aircraft can cross the Atlantic. For many years, Air Canada used to fly the 319 between LHR and Halifax (I think the shortest trans -Atlantic flights), Qatar Airways used to fly to many cities in Europe with their 319, S7 flies Canary Islands – Moscow with 320 airplanes, Finnair flies Canary Islands – Helsinki with 321 family aircraft. Many 757 used to cross the atantic. TAP Portugal has been flying for almost a year now 321-neo on the LIS-EWR route…
            Single aisle aircraft are capable of flying 5-8h flights, without problems.

          • David S says:

            HI Lady London
            The newer aircraft have more fuel efficient engines, so potentially longer range. The twin engine planes all have to have ETOPS rating (which shows how far they have to be from an airport if one engine fails) if flying over large unpopulated areas or water. The normal A320/321 group of planes have 3 hours ETOPS already. So they are pretty safe.
            Have flown on AA from Hawaii to LAX on an A321 and it was pretty uncomfortable. Prefer larger aircraft (wide body) for long haul from a personal point of view.

          • Yes, there are no safety concerns when choosing one or the other. As David says it is all regulated by ETOPS. The four engined jet is not long for this world.

          • Chrisasaurus says:

            I would strongly avoid trying BA1 then!

      • We really need a new term for these aircraft. ‘Single Aisle’ is a more accurate term but it is easier to understand if you call them a ‘short haul’ plane, given that the dimensions are virtually identical.

      • Andrew says:

        I’ve only ever flown to the USA on a single aisle from Edinburgh or Glasgow.

        Indeed, before they were retired, I’m sure I did a twin aisle 767 from LHR to GLA before connecting with a single Aisle AA flight from GLA to PHL the next morning.

    • I wonder what the economics of an all-business class, social-distancing-friendly, A321XLR would be? With record low oil rices, and Covid not going away any time soon, it could be the ideal time to try it. There could be quite a market.

      • Lady London says:

        Looks to me like an airline targeting those destinations with the current market positioning of Wizz is relying on COVID distancing requirements disappearing within 18 minths-max 3 years.

        The way these routes look is that if you’re wealthy and want to fly in Business you’d still choose Qatar. However less wealthy people get Wizz. So QR Y loses some passengers. Also note that routes have started from Eastern Europe to do this. Western Europe had better take a note of where business is going.

        Wizz is right the cheaper Europe-further than AbuDhabi market is underserved. These routes at Wizz-type pricing are going to get people on planes to and especially from these destinations that didn’t travel before – sort of like a mid-haul Ryanair. Any West European based LCC should watch carefully as this is a new market and they’re not in it.

        Reluctantly, I’ve got to admit this is a very good use of the British Government’s money by Wizz.

      • “Social Distancing” is a moot point on planes. The air is recirculated.

      • Nick_C says:

        I had thought that BA might have moved the A318 to LHR to cater for a small number of essential journeys. It often used to fly half full, which would give the social distancing needed. However, as has been mentioned before, the air circulation within a plane means normal social distancing rules do not apply.

        • Lady London says:

          Do not apply, or don’t work? Airlines say aircraft have good enough filters for the air supply.

          Where can we see airflow direction and vent maps for the various aircraft alongside seat maps?

          • Air comes from the top of the cabin and flows downward toward your feet.

            With HEPA filters and fresh air every 2-3 mins being inside an airplane is a lot safer than a cinema, theatre or other indoor venue!

          • Lady London says:

            Hum. I’ve often felt I have to shrug off a cold that someone a number of rows ahead of me had on a Transatlantic flight. Not on A350/A380 but on older aircraft. Usually my body wins after 24-72 hours fighting it off from installing itself.

    • the_real_a says:

      Am i the only one that thinks Wizz is anything but “cheap”? Once you add the bag fee, the cabin holdall fee and anything else you might need for a long haul flight… the price is generally at the level of a legacy airline in economy. I dont think i have even had Wizz price out cheaper, except on some obscure ex-soviet destinations that few airlines served.

      • That’s generally always been true if “low cost” airlines. If you can forego the extras it’s cheaper but if you need baggage, food etc you’re often better off going with a legacy airline

        • marcw says:

          But on SH, who offers free luggage? None. Free meal? Do you consider that disgusting butter sandwich i was served on SWISS any good? No, I´d rather pay for something i want to eat.

          • Aegean still serve a free hot meal in short haul economy (and I’ve always enjoyed it!)

  2. Spoke to someone in the U.K. yesterday and still no luck on the retention points. I even asked them to check what offers were available. Advice was to drop to Gold but again no points offered. They did confirm “discussions” were happening to see what could be done for Platinum members. Let’s see what happens on Monday.

  3. Heathrow Flyer says:

    These are the 5 destinations that Wizz currently operate to Dubai World Central.

    Understand that the DWC and AUH aren’t that far apart, and clearly there is a bigger picture with the involvement of Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company, but I fail to see how flying to Abu Dhabi over Dubai will help passenger numbers.

    • It probably won’t at the moment, but once it can set up a base at the airport they’ll be able to offer long haul connections. That’ll be sure to attract a price sensitive crowd.

  4. letBAgonesbe says:

    Just out of curiosity I looked at their onboard offering to see what one can purchase on a 5+ hours flight.

    In terms of actual food (not snacks), they have 2 different meat sandwiches. Full stop.

    When BOB returns to BA, maybe I stop complaining about their offering.

  5. Lockdown Larry says:

    I flew with Wizzair once. On the way out from Luton, their staff weren’t even checking passports properly.

    Hopefully that was just a one off

    • Most countries have government-staffed passport control checking travellers out of their country before they can pass to the airside. The check at the gate in more lax countries is by local airport ground staff merely to make sure ticket name matches the person travelling. If there is pressure of time, e.g. to meet performance targets or avoid delay compensation, things slip.

      • The purpose of the airline checking passports is to make sure their passengers can enter the destination. Outbound immigration officers (which I’m sure you know the UK doesn’t routinely use) are generally not bothered with that, unless they are tasked with enforcing their country’s ban on multiple citizenship.

  6. Peter says:

    I flew with Wizzair twice to Dubai World Central, once via Sofia and once via Bucharest. On each trip all flights together came to less than £125 including the flights from London. The flights were absolutely fine, and DWC is such a cool airport, very modern and big, but dead – there are only like 1 or 2 airlines operating.
    Looking forward to the expansion, should finally enable cheap flights to Asia!
    Breaking up the journey was also nice, the flights were nice and short and Sofia and Bucharest are worth visiting!

  7. Aston100 says:

    Will these proposed long haul destinations require one stop (Abu Dhabi) or two (Eastern Europe + Abu Dhabi)?
    Not sure I understood the plan properly.

    • Peter K says:

      As Abu Dhabi will be a hub, I imagine it will be one stop to from Western Europe to the far East.

  8. marcw says:

    WizzAir is also launching some Greek Islands destinations from LTN, i believe, july onwards.

  9. A ‘courageous’ time to be launching a new hub.

    • I think the Abu Dhabi Government will be making it worthwhile. It’s not a bad move – gets traffic into the Middle East from places not served by Etihad, most of which will stay in the region and generate a decent chunk of additional spending which generates VAT revenue etc. The airport is also gearing up to open its massive new terminal at a time when Etihad is retrenching.

      • marcw says:

        What I don´t understand is that the Abu Dhabi State fund is pairing up with WizzAir. But then Etihad is pairing up with Air Arabia to create Air Arabia Abu Dhabi. Isn´t Etihad owned by the state as well? Are they trying to cannibalise each other?

        • Blenz101 says:

          Pretty standard in the UAE. Various state owned entities ‘compete’ independently to provide competition. Dividends from each returned to the state as profit.

          Phone networks being the most glaring example for anybody that has lived in the region. Choice of two, both state owned, and make BT look cheap.

        • i wonder how long before they start doing code shares with Etihad ?

          in the way that FlyDubai eventually started doing it with Emirates

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