Hungarian low cost carrier Wizz Air (LSE: WIZZ) is in advanced talks to set up a base in Israel, reports "Yediot Ahronot. The establishment of a base would mean that a fleet of planes would be kept at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, returning to and from the Israeli airport as a home base, and where they would require maintenance and repairs and other logistical services.
Wizz Air founder and chief executive Jozsef Varadi told "Yediot Ahronot," "We have begun talks on the subject with the authorities that are responsible for this in Israel and we have a strong motivation to open the base. Israel is an important market for us and we want to increase our involvement in this market beyond flights."
If Wizz Air goes ahead with its plans it will become the first foreign airline to set up a base in Israel.
Varadi added, "We currently operate flights between Israel and 18 destinations in nine countries and we have plans to continue growing in this market. Since we opened our first route to Israel the number of passengers has constantly grown every year."
According to "Yediot Ahronot," Wizz Air has flown 1.4 million passengers in its five years of operations to and from Israel. In 2016, the airline flew 400,000 passengers to and from Israel, up 23% from 2015. In the first half of 2017, Wizz Air flew 267,000 passengers to and from Israel, up 54% from the corresponding period of 2016. These figures make it the fifth largest carrier operating to and from Ben Gurion airport.
Earlier this year, Wizz Air, which is the largest low cost airline in central and Eastern Europe, opened a base in Luton, near London, from which it began flights to Israel - its first route to Ben Gurion airport from Western Europe.
Earlier this week, Wizz Air published its financial results for the second quarter of 2017 with revenue of €469.3 million, up 29% from the corresponding quarter and pre-tax profit of €60.5 million, up 16% from the corresponding quarter of 2016.
The carrier also announced plans to drop cabin baggage fees from October 29. Until now, Wizz Air has generally offered lower fares than low-cost competitors such as easyJet and Ryanair. However, its rivals have allowed free cabin baggage up to a certain size and Wizz Air is now falling into line with this policy and will likely raise its fares accordingly.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 20, 2017
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