Wizz Air slashes capacity for winter after travel bans and quarantines hit demand

Business

Wizz Air today said it was likely to cut the number of flights it runs in October to half of last year’s as it battles the raft of travel restrictions and quarantine rules.

The European airline said the drop in demand also meant its winter programme would also be cut to similar levels, meaning no pick-up for the key Christmas holiday period.

That marked a scaling back of its previous hopes of running at 60 percent capacity announced on 1 September, which was itself a scaling back of its 80% guidance before.

Since then, the restrictions and curbs on travel have spread around Europe, with fears of further restrictions in movement now looking more likely as infections spread among students returning to university.

All airlines are expected to revise down their capacity forecasts as they adapt to changing guidelines from governments. British Airways is lobbying for an “air bridge” between London and New York, but as Covid spreads it is unclear whether they will be successful.

Unlike rivals such as easyJet, Wizz is not a major airline for the ski season, but is expecting winter to be hit by a general lack of demand for travel.

In April Wizz laid off about 1000 staff out of its total of 5000 including some at its Luton main hub. Wizz has slots at Gatwick, Doncaster and other regional airports which have also seen sharp cuts in flying as the business scales back its operations to match demand.

Aviation workers are set to be the worst hit by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s refusal yesterday to extend the furlough scheme.

Despite its troubles, Wizz repeated its claims that it would emerge from the crisis as a “structural winner” thanks to its strong balance sheet and healthy liquidity position.

The airline has previously warned it may have to “park” many of its 132 Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft over the winter.

It suffered particularly after Hungary closed its borders to all overseas travellers.