Ultra low-cost airline Wizz Air said it has done better than previously expected so far this year and expects demand to improve significantly this summer, despite the war in Ukraine affecting its key eastern Europe network.
The Hungarian carrier, which is listed in London, said it expects an operating loss of around £158m to £175m in the final quarter of its financial year – slightly above earlier forecasts.
It has been forced to suspend flights to and from Ukraine, Russia and Moldova since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of its neighbouring state, but now expects to fly more than in 2019 before the pandemic struck.
There was controversy earlier this month when it promised 100,000 free seats to Ukrainian refugees escaping through Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, but charged them for checked luggage.
Wizz Air has also fiercely resisted attempts by workers to unionise, rejecting calls from unions in Italy to agree a labour contract. One of Denmark’s biggest pension funds sold its shares in the airline over what it said were human and labour rights abuses.
Between April and June, Wizz expects to fly 30 per cent more available seat kilometres than it did in 2019, and 40 per cent more between July and September.
Jozsef Varadi, the airline’s chief executive, said the Covid-19 Omicron variant “proved to be of benign nature, which helped to relax government travel restrictions across a majority of our network”.
“Distressingly, the war in Ukraine dented demand for air travel and destabilised commodity prices across the globe,” he added. “Despite these developments, we are starting to see recovery take shape.”
The airline has also reduced its exposure to volatility in oil prices by hedging for a coverage of 36 per cent of planned fuel volume usage from April to August this year.
The carrier has opened a fourth UK base at Cardiff and is still expanding at its London Luton hub where it recently acquired another two additional daily slot pairs. It will operate 75 routes from Luton this summer, and remains the airport’s largest carrier by seats.
Reuters and PA contributed to this report