Abu Dhabi is set te become a low-cost airlines battlefield in the Middle East as a new entrant announced it will join the market in 2020. Central and East European airline Wizz Air will form a joint venture with Abu Dhabi Development Holding (ADDH) to create a new ultra-LCC in the UAE’s biggest emirate, it was announced on December 12.
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi plans to start operations in the second half of 2020, initially connecting Abu Dhabi to Wizz’ network in Central, Eastern and Western Europe. Other destinations in the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, and Africa will follow at a later date. The plan is subject to regulatory approval from the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), which has to grant the airline an Air Operator Certificate. Wizz CEO Jozsef Varadi says the new airline has the potential to be a significant player in the region.
ADDH is a state-owned company formed in 2018 that includes seven state-owned firms, including Abu Dhabi Airports. Wizz Air is the first airline ADDH is investing in. “Through our partnership with Wizz Air, we aim to capitalise on the growing demand for budget travel and support the continued growth of Abu Dhabi as a world-class cultural and tourist destination”, CEO Mohamed Hassan Al Suwaidi said.
With Abu Dhabi Airport set to open its new terminal facilities next year, the airport and emirate are better positioned to offer airlines opportunities for growth. The new Midfield Terminal will become the base of another new low-cost airline announced last Autumn: that of Etihad and Air Arabia joining forces to create Air Arabia Abu Dhabi. At last month’s Dubai Air Show, Air Arabia CEO Adel Ali said the JV is set to start operations early 2020. At the show Air Arabia announced orders for a total of 120 Airbus A320neo-family aircraft.
In recent years, the Middle East has seen a rapid growth of low-cost airlines. Fydubai was one of the first in 2009. Others are Flynas and Flyadeal in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways, and Oman’s Salam Air. Flynas CEO Bander Al Mohanna admitted in Dubai that there may be too many LCC’s in the region but he thinks there is still a healthy demand for flying cheaper but only the most efficient airlines will survive the strong competiton.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.