Wizz Air Holdings Plc aims to establish a fleet of 50 aircraft at a new unit in Saudi Arabia by the end of the decade, analysts said following recent briefings at the discount carrier.
Upwards of a quarter of flights at the unit would be domestic, with around 50% focused on the wider Middle East and the rest mainly on Europe, Alex Irving at Sanford C. Bernstein said in a note Tuesday, citing comments from Wizz management at the carrier’s Budapest headquarters.
Wizz signed a deal in May to explore plans for a joint venture in Saudi Arabia. The country is attractive for its 36 million population and large area requiring flights of more than two hours even for some domestic trips, combined with a government push for a near six-fold jump in inbound tourism by 2030.
Wizz plans to start services to Saudi Arabia next week, beginning with flights to the Gulf city of Damman from Rome, Vienna and Abu Dhabi. The carrier said last month that it would expand operations to 20 routes from 11 European cities, also taking in the capital Riyadh and Jeddah on the Red Sea.
Saudi services will be limited to inbound flights until a national partner in the country is found, James Goodall, an analyst at Redburn, said in a note following the Wizz briefings.
Irving said Wizz will face only limited competition in Saudi Arabia, with flag carrier Saudia and a planned second national airline dealing mostly with long-haul services and local low-cost carriers Flynas and Flyadeal having “much higher cost bases.”
Wizz as a whole is planning for a fleet of 500 aircraft by 2030, with the latest order for 75 Airbus SE A321neo narrow-body jets announced last week.
The airline aims to base 125 planes in West European markets, where it’s challenging discount leader Ryanair Holdings Plc, 250 in its Central and Eastern Europe heartland, and 125 further east. The latter would include the Saudi business, an existing joint venture in Abu Dhabi, and possible operations in Egypt, Oman, Bahrain, central Asia or Russia, Goodall said.