How Will Flying Look This Summer?
After months of lockdown, David Holzer has finally begun to appreciate how Hungarians feel about not having an ocean anymore. Now he says he is convinced that being unable to see the sea does contribute to a general sense of melancholy.
Apparently, there’s a mental state called the “blue mind.” The phrase was coined by marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols for his book of the same name. Nichols studied the effects of water on our health and well-being and concluded that being in, on, under or near water can reduce anxiety and increase our sense of calm.
I believe in the blue mind. Although we live by the majestic Tisza River and I walk along its banks most mornings, it’s not the same as gazing out across an expanse of water and being unable to see the other side.
But, in a few days, my Hungarian partner and I will be flying to the ocean with the de facto Hungarian carrier (and with its bases throughout the region something of a Magyar multi itself), Wizz Air.
Established in 2004, the company is often categorized as Central and Eastern Europe’s leading low-cost airline. It flies to more than 160 destinations in 45 countries and operates a network of close to 800 routes. It was the preferred choice of 40 million passengers in the financial year ending March 31, 2020.
Importantly for these times of ours, Wizz Air was recently named one of the world’s top 10 safest airlines by airlineratings.com, the world’s only safety and product rating agency.
Curious to find out how the airline has been coping in the past few months of lockdown and what we can expect on our flight, I recently spoke to András Radó, communications manager for Wizz Air.
BBJ: How did Wizz Air operate through the months of lockdown?
András Radó: We were heavily impacted by the restrictions. But we were one of the very few airlines that didn’t stop flying during the past months and offered those flights that were possible under the restrictions. Apart from carrying passengers for essential travel, we performed more than 100 humanitarian flights, bringing medical supplies from China, and repatriated close to 3,000 stranded passengers.
BBJ: What’s the situation now?
AR: With the arrival of the summer and parallel to the easing of the travel restrictions imposed by countries, we’re steadily ramping up operations and carrying more and more people. We’re currently operating at well over 50% capacity and seeing a growing number of bookings for the summer period. These are people traveling to or from Hungary for work as well as leisure and business travelers returning to flying.
BBJ: What safety measures is the company taking?
AR: We recently announced a range of enhanced hygiene measures. Throughout the flight, both cabin crew and passengers are required to wear facemasks, with cabin crew also having to wear gloves. Our aircraft are regularly put through an industry-leading cleaning process with an antiviral solution and, following our stringent daily cleaning schedule, all aircraft are disinfected overnight with the same antiviral solution.
Sanitizing wipes are handed to each passenger upon entering the aircraft. Onboard magazines have been removed and any onboard purchases are encouraged to be made by contactless payment. On flights from Budapest we are trialing payment by bank card only.
Passengers are requested to follow physical distancing measures introduced by the local health authorities and are encouraged to make all purchases prior to the flight online (checked in luggage, Wizz Priority, fast security track, for example) to minimize all possible physical contact at the airport.
BBJ: How does the company anticipate measures changing?
AR: We expect that restrictive measures will gradually ease, and we can restart even more routes.
BBJ: What challenges do you expect in the coming months?
AR: There will certainly be challenges. We anticipate that there won’t be a consensus concerning restrictions among the 45 markets we operate in. This will keep on creating difficulties regarding which routes we can operate and where passengers can travel freely.
BBJ: What is demand like for flights from Hungarians?
AR: We’re seeing growing demand and our surveys show that Hungarians would like to travel after the months’-long lockdown.
BBJ: What are the most popular destinations?
AR: Hungarians are heading for seaside destinations and returning to other parts of Europe for work.
BBJ: What do people booking flights with Wizz Air absolutely need to be aware of?
AR: It’s of paramount importance that passengers check the restrictions in place at their destination before and at the time of their travels.
BBJ: Is there any extraordinary level of protection against cancellation or is standard cancellation insurance sufficient?
AR: We recommend that passengers add Wizz Flex to their booking, for hassle free peace of mind travel. That way they can cancel or modify their flight up to three hours before departure without a cancelation fee and get 100% of the original fare immediately reimbursed in airline credit, which can then be used within three months from the cancellation.
BBJ: Looking to the future, does Wizz Air believe the nature of air travel has changed forever?
AR: We’re sure that air travel will gradually return to normal. Analysts have previously stated that it will take two-three years to reach pre-COVID-19 capacity, however for some airlines – such as ours – it will take less time. We expect to reach our pre-COVID-19 capacity by 2021.
BBJ: What predictions would you make for the future?
AR: Some non-sustainable airlines have already and will go bankrupt while profitable and stable airlines like ours will be able to further grow and add more capacity. Long-haul and business travel will recover last, while short- and medium-haul, point-to-point flights are expected to recover quicker. It’s expected that younger people will return to traveling and flying sooner than the elderly.
For more on Magyar Multis, see our Special Report in this issue. And Look out for much more on the tourism industry in our next issue, the last before we take our traditional summer break in August.
If you are planning on flying Wizz this summer and would like to prepare yourself for what to expect, check out the airline’s “WIZZ Says YES to Enhanced Health & Safety” video on YouTube.
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