In what many will see as a surprise move, Wizz Air, the European all-Airbus low-cost carrier, is preparing to establish a significant presence in the Indian aviation industry.
The airline is reportedly actively exploring various options to enter the Indian low-cost arena despite multiple issues that have plagued other incumbent Indian airlines such as GoAir, Jet Airways, and SpiceJet over the past year.
Indeed, recent developments with Wizz Air indicate that the company’s Indian ambitions could materialize sooner than even those in the know could have expected.
Wizz Air’s Maltese subsidiary has just been awarded a license from ENAC, the Italian National Civil Aviation Organisation. The award of this license permits the airline to operate up to seven flights per week between Italy and India.
However, the license is currently limited to the 2023/2024 winter season (October 29, 2023, to March 30, 2024), thus putting pressure on the airline to commence operations as soon as possible to take advantage of the granting of the license.
However, Wizz Air faces a significant hurdle to overcome before it can commence services to India. The issue is the lack of a suitable aircraft in its fleet that can fly the distance between any two points in Italy and India without requiring a technical stop to refuel.
The issue has been compounded by the late delivery of the airline’s new A321XLR aircraft, of which Wizz Air has 45 on order and has earmarked as the type it will use to roll out for its long-haul operations.
To begin using the license to India while accepting the limitations placed by its current fleet of 21 A320, six A320neo, three A321, and 56 A321neo, Wizz Air Malta is said to be contemplating the introduction of one-stop flights as an interim solution to enter the Indian market this winter, a move that many perceive to be wholly against the low-cost airline model.
This strategy approach would at least allow the carrier to commence operations to India while waiting for the arrival of its first A321XLRs, due sometime in 2024.
Wizz Air is currently exploring the use of its bases in either Saudi Arabia or Abu Dhabi for the technical stop between Italy and India – a move that could work given the capabilities of the current fleet.
Should Wizz Air successfully launch flights between the two countries, the airline may open up more operations from various points around its European and Middle Eastern networks and explore the potential to enter the Indian domestic market at some point in the future.