LONDON: Wizz Air vowed to use the coronavirus crisis to grab business from rivals including easyJet, as the no-frills airlines both posted sharp quarterly revenue declines.
As most carriers cut fleets and networks, Hungary-based Wizz has been adding new bases and aircraft, with some delayed deliveries, as it presses its competitive advantage amid the unprecedented global travel slump.
While Wizz is “not immune” to the short-term industry pain, Chief Executive Jozsef Varadi told Reuters, “the longer it goes, the better we will emerge” in competitive terms.
Wizz and easyJet posted quarterly numbers just as travel recovery hopes suffer new setbacks. Despite vaccination progress, governments are imposing new restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19 variants.
Revenue for the quarter ended Dec. 30 fell by 88% to 165 million pounds ($225 million) at easyJet, and by 77% to 149.9 million euros ($182 million) at Wizz, which posted a similar decline in passenger numbers and a 115 million-euro net loss.
EasyJet shares traded up 0.2%, while Wizz was up 3.4% at 1153 GMT.
“With easyJet there’s some lingering concern that if the summer doesn’t happen they have some question-marks over liquidity,” said Davy analyst Stephen Furlong. “Wizz with its lower-cost model is burning very little (cash).”
Both airlines are reining in costs, with easyJet trimming its cash burn to 40 million pounds per week, while smaller Wizz consumed 64.6 million euros monthly during the quarter.
EasyJet has 2.5 billion pounds in liquidity, while Wizz has 1.2 billion euros in cash excluding 500 million from a bond sale this month – enough to withstand another two years of slump, Varadi said.
Johan Lundgren, easyJet’s CEO, implored governments to set out clearer timetables to exit lockdowns and ease the uncertainty weighing on forward bookings.
“The key thing is really that they have a plan (and) let people know how they’re going to unwind these things,” he said.
EasyJet has trimmed its fleet and closed bases since the start of the crisis – while Wizz has added 14 including London Gatwick, where one plane is stationed.
Varadi, who has lambasted regulators for freezing access to take-off and landing slots during the pandemic, said Wizz had approached airlines including bankrupt Norwegian Air over potential long-haul Gatwick slot trades.
The Wizz CEO also voiced optimism that some level of summer demand could be salvaged, and said the carrier was ready to ramp up “sea and sun” flights with as little as three weeks’ notice.
($1 = 0.7320 pounds)
($1 = 0.8256 euros)
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