Operator seeks ban of business class services in short haul flights

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Wizz Air, József Váradi

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Wizz Air, József Váradi, has described as “unethical” the inclusion of business class services in the configuration of short haul flights.

The Hungarian low-cost carrier boss yesterday slammed legacy carriers like British Airways (BA) and KLM for operating business class flights. He observed that the airlines “despite all their carbon neutral promises, they still perform poorly in terms of carbon emissions due to their business model.”

“Just look at business cost. Business cost is one of the diverse products you can bring to the market with regard to environmental impact. I mean, a business passenger emits 2x or 3x more than an economy-class passenger.

“Look at connecting traffic compared to point-to-point. When you connect, you’re going to be taking two flights. So, your impact on the environment is going to be at least twice as bad compared to a single flight, a point-to-point flight.”

As a low-cost airline, Wizz does not have any business class. It also does not operate any connecting flights, being a wholly point-to-point airline without any hub and spoke type operations. This, says Varadi, is key to Wizz’s ability to keep costs low and carbon emissions lower.

Wizz Air has recently posted record first half profits of some €317.5 million, and expects to continue to grow profits over the second half of 2019.

Of legacy carriers, he went on to say, “inherently, their business model is environmentally polluting. I mean, flying a lot of business class, flying a lot of connecting passengers, they are affecting the environment in a bad way.”

He called for business class to be banned on shorter flights. “Business class should be banned. These passengers account for twice the carbon footprint of an economy passenger, and the industry is guilty of preserving an inefficient and archaic model. A rethink is overdue, and we call on fellow airlines to commit to a total ban on business class travel for any flight under five hours.”

While this would be unlikely to be popular with full service carriers, he does raise a good point. In today’s climate of flight shaming and environmental concern, short haul business class is beginning to look rather indulgent.

Varadi was keen to point out how well Wizz is doing on its own environmental efforts. He claims to operate the greenest airline in Europe, and attributes this success to the airline’s use of brand new aircraft such as the A321neo. In the earnings call, he said,

“We are emitting 56 grams, that’s 15 per cent lower than Ryanair and around 60 per cent, 70 per cent lower than the legacy carriers.”

Right now, around 50 per cent of Wizz seats are operated by the highly efficient A321neo. Varadi says that this offers a 20 per cent lower cost, including fuel burn, than the A320. With 270 aircraft on order, all neo variants, the airline is expecting to continue driving down its carbon footprint in the years to come.

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József VáradiWizz Air
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