24 AUGUST 2020
© 2022 Business Travel News Ltd.
The Hungarian London Stock market listed airline, Wizz Air, is to station a single Airbus A321neo aircraft from late October at Gatwick (LGW) in what might be considered a political ploy as it tries to change the slot rules.
The airline is already well-established at LGW with up to 11 aircraft stationed at the airport in the normal peak summer months. Just last week Wizz, Luton-centred in the UK, announced a second British base at Doncaster. It also confirmed the introduction of Moscow and St Petersburg service.
Wizz’s efforts to expand at LGW have so far been frustrated by the lack of available slots. In recent weeks the airline has renewed calls for “80-20 use-it-or-lose-it” airport slot rules to be reinstated, arguing that an extension to current waivers would be “anti-competitive” and hinder the recovery.
The EU relaxed normal slot restrictions rules – which require airlines to operate at least 80% of allocated slots or face losing them – in March as the Covid-19 crisis deepened. However, Wizz has accused rivals of “slot-blocking,” alleging that some carriers at LGW are seeking to retain slots “that they have no intention of operating in the near future.”
“Our ambition here is as big as the opportunity can be” Wizz Air UK Managing Director Owain Jones said. “We haven’t got to be where we are by shying away from opportunities, but slots are an issue. We were lucky enough to be given enough slots to base an aircraft here so that gives us a foot in the door. However, what will stop that growth is slots.”
Stewart Wingate, CEO at Gatwick Airport, said: “This is encouraging news for Gatwick, particularly at a time when the industry has been so negatively impacted by Covid-19. Having a new aircraft based at Gatwick underpins the resilience of our business for the long-term and ensures we continue to offer our passengers great choice. This is a welcome indication of the positive conversations we are having with airlines – both existing and new – about securing Gatwick’s future.”
Stewart Wingate will be “On the Soapbox” in next week’s BTN.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum