LONDON UK (Reuters) - Hungary-based budget airline Wizz Air has shored up its post-Brexit flying rights after UK authorities granted its British subsidiary Wizz Air an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC).
Flying rights are currently governed by EU-wide deals and because it is not part of the World Trade Organization, the aviation sector has no natural fallback scheme to protect flights if there is no deal between Britain and the European Union on arrangements after Britain leaves the bloc.
Wizz Air, whose main operations are in central and eastern Europe, said its UK subsidiary Wizz Air UK would be based at London’s Luton Airport and fly 8 Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft.
“Wizz Air UK is a key part of our Brexit contingency plan...and the natural next step in the development of our UK business, putting us in a strong position to take advantage of opportunities that may arise in what remains Europe’s largest travel market,” Wizz CEO Jozsef Varadi said on Thursday.
Varadi also said that Wizz Air would be interested in buying the assets of any failing airlines but not in bidding for an airline as a whole.
London-listed Wizz last year bought airport slots which became available through the demise of British airline Monarch and is on the lookout for similar opportunities as consolidation picks up in Europe.
“We are interested in ... maybe some of the assets of failing businesses,” Varadi told reporters. “Consolidating through assets is a far more interesting game than consolidating through businesses or companies.”
Europe’s airline industry has seen several shake-ups lately, with Lufthansa and easyJet acquiring parts of failed airline Air Berlin last year.
Struggling Italian carrier Alitalia is also seeking new investors and another deal is on the cards after British Airways-owner IAG bought a stake in Norwegian ahead of a possible takeover.
Asked whether Wizz would be interested in Norwegian’s slots at London’s Gatwick Airport if they become available through any future deal, Varadi said Wizz would consider it.
“Possibly yes. We are certainly not interested in Norwegian,” he said.
Asked about Wizz’s interest in Alitalia, which entered insolvency proceedings last year, Varadi said Wizz had not submitted a bid in a sale process.
“We are never going to buy Alitalia. We have never intended, we have never said that. The interest that we have is the Italian market, the Italian consumer and possibly some of the assets if Alitalia goes down, but certainly not Alitalia as a business,” he said.
While it will consider buying assets in Italy and Britain, about two-thirds of Wizz’s future growth will come from its core central and Eastern European area, said Varadi.