Hungary’s Wizz to Be Dubai Hub’s First Client, Filling Malev Gap

Hungary’s Wizz Air Ltd. will become a first client for Dubai’s new super-airport as it stretches the range of its Airbus SAS A320 planes to fill a gap in long-haul travel left by last year’s collapse of state-owned Malev Zrt.

The discount carrier and Saudi Arabian low-cost operator NasAir will be the first passenger airlines to serve Dubai World Central starting in October as the Gulf sheikdom seeks clients for a hub due to have twice the capacity of London Heathrow.

Wizz will be the only European low-cost carrier operating Airbus single-aisle jets to Dubai, with four weekly flights from Budapest and Kiev and three from Bucharest and Sofia. The emirate will be the most distant point in the Wizz network and is close to the limits of the A320, of which the company has 40 in its fleet, Commercial Director Gyorgy Abran said today.

“We believe it’s an important step for Wizz Air because it’s a big launch into a place in the Middle East, outside of the European Union,” Abran said by telephone from Budapest. “It’s a big challenge but we’re very hopeful.”

Wizz aims to attract a mix of leisure and business customers on the Budapest-Dubai connection, with passengers originating in both locations, as it adds a route on which there is currently no air service, the executive said. Hungary has been starved of long-haul links compared with other European cities since Malev folded in February 2012 after 66 years.

Norwegian Flights

EasyJet Plc, Europe’s second-biggest discount carrier, isn’t interested in operating to Dubai because the route would be at the limits of A320 flights from the U.K. and would also be a stretch for its business model, spokesman Paul Moore said.

Norwegian Air Shuttle AS, Europe’s fourth-largest low-cost operator, serves Dubai from Scandinavia using Boeing Co. 737-800 planes, while Air Berlin Plc provides flights to Abu Dhabi with Airbus A330 wide-bodies.

Wizz will commence services to Dubai World Central with promotional fares of 19,990 forints (85 euros) for about 10 percent of the available seats, operating to the Gulf in the morning and returning late afternoon using a single aircraft.

The company aims to carry 250,000 people on the four Gulf routes in the first year, Jozsef Varadi, its chief executive officer, said at a press conference in Dubai.

Abran declined to say what incentives state-backed Dubai Airports offered to lure it to the new hub, which has been used only by freight carriers, adding that it’s attractive for its location between Dubai and Abu Dhabi to the south.

It’s also possible that low fares from Europe might attract more-adventurous travelers willing to make the trip to the existing Dubai International airport to connect with long-haul flights operated by Emirates and other major carriers, he said.

Local plans envisage Dubai World Central gradually taking over all passenger services, even though Dubai International attracted 57.7 million people last year and is due to have a 90-million capacity by 2018 after $7.8 billion of investments that include the only terminal dedicated to Airbus A380 superjumbos.

The new base will have room for 80 million passengers by 2027 and an eventual capacity of 160 million, more than twice the current 70-million limit at Heathrow, Europe’s busiest hub.

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