Wizz Air warns of flight cuts due to airport chaos

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Wizz Air expects to have to cut flights this summer due to labor shortages and strikes at European airports, the budget airline said on Monday, sending its shares down around 5%.

Wizz Chief Executive József Váradi had said in June the company was confident of returning to pre-COVID productivity by reaching full utilization of its aircraft this year.

However, the company said on Monday it expected to cut utilization another 5% for the summer to reduce the impact of “ongoing external disruptions.”

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After a blip caused by the Omicron coronavirus variant, travel demand has roared back, with airlines betting on summer holiday travel in July-September to boost their bottom-lines.

But strikes and staff shortages are forcing airlines to cancel thousands of flights and causing hours-long queues at major airports across Europe.

Airlines have raised fares to offset higher fuel costs, with pilots and cabin crews making a case for higher pay due to inflation.

Scandinavian airline SAS canceled hundreds of flights last week after talks with pilots over a new collective bargaining agreement collapsed.

Meanwhile, Britain laid out various plans for the industry last week, including help in recruiting staff, as the country’s busiest airport Heathrow asked airlines to cancel 30 scheduled flights due to passenger numbers exceeding the airport’s capacity on Thursday.

Heathrow on Monday apologized for “unacceptable” service in recent weeks and signaled it could ask for more flight cuts.

London-listed Wizz, which on Monday reported an operating loss of 285 million euros ($289 million) in the first quarter, said it expected to return to a “material” profit this quarter.

It said its load factor, which measures how well an airline is filling available seats, as of July, continued to improve to above 90%.

($1 = 0.9862 euros) (Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Mark Potter)

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