Wizz Air will operate 25 routes from London Gatwick (LGW) during the upcoming summer season after adding a further four destinations to its network from the UK airport.
The expansion comes just weeks after the ULCC acquired 15 daily slot pairs from Norwegian, enabling the launch of 14 new routes. A further four Airbus A321neo aircraft will be based at Gatwick from spring 2022 onwards, bringing the total number stationed there to five.
From March 27, Wizz will fly five times a week to Venice (VCE) in Italy, and from March 29 will fly twice weekly to Palermo (PMO), the capital of the Italian island of Sicily.
From June 13, the seaside resort of Varna (VAR) in Bulgaria will be served five times per week, and a 4X-weekly route to Burgas (BOJ), a large port city on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, will start two days later.
The airline’s booking system shows that all four destinations will continue to be offered from London Luton (LTN) during summer 2022.
In addition, Wizz plans to increase frequencies on the recently announced new routes from Gatwick to Larnaca (LCA), Milan Malpensa (MXP) and Vienna (VIE).
“Today marks another important step in our continued expansion at Gatwick, following the announcement of our acquisition of new slots at the airport,” Wizz Air UK MD Marion Geoffroy said.
Wizz’s continued expansion from Gatwick further increases the low-cost competition at the airport. Although easyJet is the largest carrier, Spanish LCC Vueling this summer plans to operate 12 short-haul routes from the airport, five of which are new additions.
Fellow International Airlines Group-owned British Airways (BA) is also set to launch a new lower-cost short-haul unit at airport in March. The carrier will fly 35 routes across Europe and North Africa, mainly centered on popular summer vacation destinations in Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey.
Wizz opened a base at Gatwick in October 2020, launching seasonal leisure routes to the likes of Athens (ATH), Lanzarote (ACE) and Malta (MLA). Since then, CEO József Váradi has repeatedly complained that growth has been stifled by the lack of available slots.
In November 2021, a coalition comprising Wizz, Gatwick, Belfast International (BFS) and Edinburgh (EDI) reiterated calls for a return of the “80-20 use-it-or-lose-it” airport slot rules to be reinstated in the UK for the summer 2022 season.
Although the UK government has resisted the calls, it confirmed earlier this week that the minimum usage threshold will be raised to 70%, up from the current 50%. Ordinarily, carriers must operate slots 80% of the time to retain the right to use them following year, but the rules have been relaxed since the onset of the pandemic.
“We have continued to call for the full reinstatement of the original 80-20 slot usage rules and welcome the government’s recent decision to adjust the ratio to 70-30, so we can continue to take up new market opportunities and provide even more low-fare opportunities for our customers, supporting the recovery of the aviation sector, associated industries, and local economies,” Geoffroy said.
She also praised the UK government’s decision to lift all COVID-19 restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers from Feb. 11.
As well as flying 25 routes from Gatwick, Wizz intends to offer 70 from London Luton this summer and one from London Southend (SEN).
According to data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser, the ULCC will compete directly with easyJet from Gatwick to Burgas, Palermo, Varna and Venice. BA will also serve Gatwick-Venice this summer, and TUI Airways will serve both Bulgarian destinations.