Wizz Air said it may be able to seize on opportunities to gain market share as a tough operating environment hurts its competitors as the fast-growing Central and Eastern European LCC unveiled full-year results that showed a rise in profit and passenger numbers. 

The Budapest-based carrier, which has been rapidly expanding its fleet and network in recent years, said passenger numbers for the year to March 31 rose 16.7% to 34.6 million in the year to March 31. Profit rose 6% to €291.6 million ($325.8 million) on revenues 19.6% higher at €2.32 billion. Load factor rose 1.5 points to 92.8%. The airline’s fleet grew to 112 Airbus aircraft, up from 93 at the end of the previous year. 

CEO József Váradi ​described the results as a “solid” performance, given the fact that Easter traffic fell into the previous financial year, fuel prices were higher and the operating environment was “challenging” across the industry. 

But looking ahead, the airline sounded a positive note, in contrast to some of the competitor airlines that have released results in recent weeks, saying that tough context could provide opportunities. 

“Higher fuel prices are supporting a stronger fare environment and we expect these macro conditions to provide Wizz Air with market share opportunities as weaker carriers withdraw unprofitable capacity,” Váradi​ said.

The carrier expects a further 17% increase in passenger numbers to 40 million in the 2020 financial year, as it uses its ability to limit costs to allow it to offer low fares. 

The airline predicted a net profit of between €320 and €350 million for the next financial year, depending on revenue performance over the summer and in the second half, a period for which Wizz Air said that like most airlines, it has limited visibility. 

“With no signs that [air traffic controller] ATC and airport infrastructure issues will improve any time soon the company anticipates another very challenging operating environment in financial year 2020,” Wizz Air said, referring to the ATC strikes and staffing issues that caused widespread delays and cancellations for European passengers last summer. 

To counter these issues Wizz Air said it had taken steps including re-affirming its financial year 2020 aircraft delivery schedule with Airbus, additional capacity in its schedule during the peak summer months and changing its cabin bag policy to improve boarding times. 

The arrival of the first two Airbus A321neos in the fourth quarter delivered “significant value,” Wizz Air said, leading to a reduction in expenses in 2019 to €30.9 million, down from €54.2 million in 2018, thanks to €44.5 million in credits related sale and leaseback transactions that are not expected to be repeated to the same extent next year, Wizz Air said.

The carrier has a further 253 Airbus A320neo family aircraft on order. 

“The embedded value in the company’s aircraft order of 253 aircraft is expected to deliver significant financial benefits over the life of the contract,” the airline added.

Helen Massy-Beresford, helen.massy-beresford@aviationweek.co.uk