Wizz Air CEO looks to connect the dots with new long-range A321s

FILE PHOTO: A Wizz Air Airbus aircraft is pictured at the London Luton Airport, Luton, Britain, April 13, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

LE BOURGET, France (Reuters) - Wizz Air will use 20 new extended-range, narrow body Airbus jets primarily to connect existing destinations in its disparate network rather than to fly to new places, the budget airline’s Chief Executive Jozsef Varadi said on Wednesday.

Indigo Partners, the private equity firm of veteran low-cost airline investor Bill Franke, agreed on Wednesday to acquire 50 of the new long-range version of Airbus’ A321neo jet, 20 of which will go to Wizz.

Wizz, which operates a fleet of 113 Airbus A320 and Airbus A321, would not need to change its operating model to accommodate the new A321XLR jets, Varadi said, as it would be able to fly essentially the same planes a little longer.

“Our network spans from the Canary Islands to Astana in Kazakhstan, from Reyjavik in Iceland to Dubai,” Varadi told Reuters after the announcement at the Paris Airshow.

“The XLR gives use the opportunity to connect more dots in our existing network. This is what we’re looking at.”

Airbus opened the Paris Airshow with the launch of the A321XLR, but the announcement was overshadowed on Tuesday when Boeing said British Airways-owner IAG intended to order 200 of its grounded 737 MAX jets.

Hungary-based Wizz, which is focussed on central and eastern Europe, said it had used existing option positions to secure the deal for the A321XLRs, bringing the airline’s total of outstanding firm orders for Airbus aircraft to 276 jets.

Varadi said that in the longer term, it was possible the jet would help open routes to new destinations, but it was not a priority.

“We have always been excited about planting new flags in new territories,” Varadi said. “But the vast majority of the XLR capacity will come in existing markets.”

Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Mark Potter