Budget airline Wizz falls to half a billion loss after 'most challenging year in history'

·3-min read
CEO József Váradi said: “This was probably one of the most challenging years for the aviation industry. Photo: Reuters
Wizz Air CEO József Váradi said: “This was probably one of the most challenging years for the aviation industry. Photo: Reuters

Wizz Air’s (WIZZ.L) revenue has taken a major hit and it warned of even more losses going forward, as the pandemic takes a major toll on the travel industry.

The company posted a €576m (£496, $702m) net loss for the 12 months ended March 31. Revenue declined 73% to €739m and underlying full-year loss was €482m.

It carried only 10 million passengers in this time, a 75% plunge year-on-year.

CEO József Váradi said: “This was probably one of the most challenging years for the aviation industry, heavily impacted by COVID-19 related regulations.”

“Passenger and revenue figures reflect the sharp cut back in capacity throughout the year as a result of travel restrictions across Europe.”

But he said the company still managed to “stay in control of our cost structure, preserve our cash position and maintain our investment grade balance sheet.”

Wizz Air's stock fell on Wednesday morning. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK
Wizz Air's stock fell on Wednesday morning. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK

Going forward, the company is cautiously optimistic about recovery, which it said started later than it had hoped, as COVID-19 restrictions remained in place longer than anticipated.

The company expects to fly around 30% of its capacity in the first quarter and “unless we see an accelerated and permanent lifting of restrictions we expect a reported net loss" for 2022, said Váradi.

By 2023, it hopes to operate at full capacity.

“We have prepared the company to be an even more formidable player and to take advantage of the next phase of market opportunities that await post pandemic," said Váradi.

"The investments we have made in our fleet and in our network over the past 12 months will soon yield results," he added.

Shares in the company were almost 2% lower on Wednesday morning.

"The jaunty low-cost challenger couldn’t escape the gut-wrenching turbulence the pandemic has caused for the airline industry," said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Watch: Where can I go on holiday?

Read more: UK gets green light to start process of joining Trans-Pacific trade deal

"The Hungarian carrier flies routes mainly to and from Eastern European countries, which have been far from speedy in vaccine roll outs, although lighter travel restrictions compared to the UK do put it in a slightly more resilient position."

She said some 50 routes have been added to the schedule, including the addition of Abu Dhabi. 

"Expansion into the UAE is a key part of its plan... However, with current full capacity not expected to return until 2023, its lofty ambitions are for now a speck on the horizon.’’

The UK has introduced a ‘traffic light’ system for travel, where countries are divided into green, amber and red. Britons traveling to green list nations don’t need to quarantine when they return to the UK unless the COVID-19 test they take on or before day two after their return is positive.

So far, there are only 12 countries marked ‘green’, including Portugal, Iceland and Australia. The list is subject to review every three weeks.

Despite calls by the industry to expand the list, UK prime minister Boris Johnson said last month: "I don't expect that we'll be adding to it very rapidly and indeed we will be maintaining a very, very tough border regime for the foreseeable future."

Meanwhile, The European Commission has proposed that vaccinated people should be exempt from testing or quarantines when traveling from one EU country to another, and the EU is also welcoming vaccinated tourists.

Watch: Should I book a holiday in 2021?