Travel chaos blamed on BREXIT as Wizz Air boss slams immigration rules

Wizz Air pilot furious at plane passengers trying to get off

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József Váradi, the founder and chief executive of the low-cost Hungarian airline, said Wizz Air has enough pilots and crew members to operate smoothly but pinned the ongoing travel chaos onto post-Brexit immigration rules.

He said: “There is understaffing in air traffic control management. There is insufficient staffing at airports and in ground handling.

“The solution is that the supply chain needs to perform to standard. That is what we are missing.

“The UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy is putting a lot of strain on the labour market, something that is unique to Britain across the industry.

“You have exemptions for agricultural workers, maybe there should be exemptions for aviation.

“These immigration policies are a huge constraint and are counterproductive.”

The Wizz Air boss also warned shareholders that recent disruption at airports will probably lead to the airline making an operating loss in the first quarter of its financial year.

“Shortages of staff in air traffic control, security and other parts of the supply chain are impacting airlines, our employees and our customers directly,” Mr Varadi said.

He added: “We see strong consumer demand for summer, but expect an operating loss for the first quarter of F23.

“The airline industry remains exposed to externalities such as air traffic control disruption and continuing operational issues within the airports sector, adding to a volatile macro environment.

“As a result, at this point, we are not providing further financial guidance for the year.”

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He added that the price of a plane ticket might jump by close to 10 percent this summer as European travellers try to get away after two years of heavy travel restrictions.

The boss of Wizz Air said tickets are already more expensive now than they were in the year before the pandemic struck.

He expects this to increase even further, to “upper single digits” in the company’s second quarter, which runs between July and September.

“Our bookings are showing strong performance in the first fiscal quarter, with average fares trending higher at low single digits versus (the) same period in F20 (financial year ending March 2020),” he said.

“For fiscal quarter two, we expect fares in the upper single digits ahead of the equivalent period F20.”

This could see fares rise by close to 10 percent, although the company did not reveal any more detailed assessment of where they are likely to go.

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The number of passengers Wizz carried more than doubled from 10.2 million to 27.1 million in the year to the end of March.

Revenue rose 125 percent to 1.7 billion euros (£1.5 billion), while pre-tax loss rose from 567 million euros to 642 million (£482 million to £546 million).

It comes as UK holidaymakers are facing further disruption today after two Italian unions called for a nationwide crew strike.

Pilots and flight attendants from airlines including Ryanair, easyJet and Crewlink are set to strike for four hours from 10am until 2pm, according to Italian media.

Unions Italian Federation of Transport Workers (FILT) and Italian Union of Transport Workers (UILT) said the strike is over pay disputes, non-payment of sick days, summer leave and a “lack of water and meals for the crew”.

UILT said that if an agreement is not reached, “this will be only the first of a series of protest actions that will make the summer ‘hot”‘.

Easyjet has warned its customers that there may be some disruptions to its schedule.

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