• Wizz Air Getty Gdansk

    Wizz Air

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Ultra-Low-Cost Carrier

    Year Founded:

    József Váradi


It’s over: Wizz Air has closed its base in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in what is a huge blow for the airport that saw record passenger numbers due to the low-cost carrier’s operations there.

The last remaining Wizz aircraft in this base, an Airbus A320 registered HA-LYD, was ferried from Sarajevo to Budapest two days ago. It started operating Budapest-based flights for Wizz the same day.

Let’s take a look at the full timeline of Wizz’s speedy arrival and an even speedier departure from Sarajevo.

How did it all start?

In July 2020, Sarajevo Airport (SJJ) underwent a change of leadership, with Alan Bajić appointed as the new General Manager.

The new management quickly got to work. In October 2020, the airport launched a tender to attract an airline to base aircraft there to soften the negative impact on passenger traffic as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sarajevo was hit particularly hard because its de-facto flag carrier, private startup airline FlyBosnia, stopped flying in early 2020 and has never resumed scheduled operations.

The tender was successful: Wizz Air announced in February 2021 that it would open its 41st base in Sarajevo in May 2021 with a single Airbus A320 and nine routes, none of which were served out of SJJ at the time. Back then, Wizz Air flew to just one destination from Sarajevo: Budapest (BUD).

A Wizz Air A321neo
Photo: Getty Images

Following the tender, the route launches took place as follows:

  • Sarajevo – Dortmund (DTM), launched 20th May 2021
  • Sarajevo – Memmingen (FMM), launched 20th May 2021
  • Sarajevo – Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg (BSL), launched 21st May 2021
  • Sarajevo – Copenhagen (CPH), launched 22nd May 2021
  • Sarajevo – Eindhoven (EIN), launched 23rd May 2021
  • Sarajevo – Gothenburg (GOT), launched 23rd May 2021
  • Sarajevo – Brussels Charleroi (CRL), launched 14th June 2021
  • Sarajevo – Paris Beauvais (BVA), launched 15th June 2021
  • Sarajevo – Stockholm Skavsta (NYO), launched 18th June 2021
  • Sarajevo – Abu Dhabi (AUH), launched 3rd October 2021 and operated by Wizz Air Abu Dhabi
  • Sarajevo – Malmö (MMX), launched 16th December 2021
  • Sarajevo – Frankfurt Hahn (HHN), launched 16th December 2021
  • Sarajevo – Cologne (CGN), launched 16th December 2021
  • Sarajevo – Hamburg (HAM), launched 16th December 2021
  • Sarajevo – Billund (BLL), launched 17th December 2021
  • Sarajevo – Oslo Sandefjord (TRF), launched 19th December 2021
  • Sarajevo – London Luton (LTN), launched 29th March 2022
  • Sarajevo – Venice Treviso (TSF), launched 14th April 2022
  • Sarajevo – Saarbrücken (SCN), launched 14th June 2022

In the summer of 2022, Wizz Air had two Airbus A320 stationed in Sarajevo. The airport was seeing incredible passenger growth, surpassing its pre-pandemic figures within the first seven months of 2022 already, and outperforming its 2019 traffic by more than almost all European airports.

In September this year, SJJ saw as much as 37% more passenger traffic than in September 2019. The airport was on track for a strong winter, and hopes were high that Wizz Air would keep growing in the summer of 2023 as well, boosting SJJ’s passenger traffic even further.

However, SJJ’s dream run is now over, and it all happened within three months. Wizz Air first removed one of the two A320s from Sarajevo in August. Then, in September, the airline started trimming its October and November schedules. By the end of September, some routes were suspended for the winter. Finally, at the start of October, all but two routes were pulled off sale.

Ryanair Fleet Boeing 737
Photo: Getty Images

Is Ryanair the reason?

The two routes that Wizz Air has kept are:

  • Sarajevo – London Luton (LTN), operated by Wizz Air UK
  • Sarajevo – Abu Dhabi (AUH), operated by Wizz Air Abu Dhabi

Meanwhile, other airports in Bosnia and Herzegovina will see more of Wizz Air. The chief benefactor is Tuzla (TZL), an airport just 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Sarajevo where Wizz Air has had a monopoly for years and where its operations are subsidized by the local authorities.

It is thought that Wizz Air’s withdrawal from Sarajevo is partially caused by its desire to boost its traffic in Tuzla, in order to make it more difficult for Ryanair to penetrate the market. Wizz Air’s monopoly in Tuzla was broken this week, for the first time ever, with the arrival of Ryanair.

This winter, Ryanair will be flying from Tuzla from Vienna (VIE), Stockholm (ARN), and Memmingen (FMM). Further route launches are likely for next summer.

At the same time as it announced the closure of its Sarajevo base, Wizz Air has boosted its Tuzla capacity. The Sarajevo – Eindhoven route has become Tuzla – Eindhoven.

At the same time, Wizz Air has increased by a third its frequencies from TZL to Basel (BSL), Memmingen (FMM), and Dortmund (DTM).

By closing its Sarajevo base, Wizz Air is able to concentrate passenger traffic from the wider catchment area in Tuzla alone. Wizz Air’s Sarajevo services no longer compete with its Tuzla services.

In concentrating traffic its offering in just one of the two airports, Wizz Air can run an extensive destinations network with frequencies at levels that make it harder for Ryanair to launch more routes to Tuzla.

Still, this may not be enough to stop Ryanair. The three destinations that the Irish low-cost airline has chosen to launch in Tuzla are all already served by Wizz Air. They both fly to Vienna and Memmingen, while Ryanair’s flights to Stockholm Arlanda (ARN) compete with Wizz’s flights to Stockholm Skavsta (NYO).

Ryanair and Wizz also compete in Bosnia’s Banja Luka Airport (BNX), and Wizz is expected to launch its first new routes to Mostar Airport (OMO) next summer as that airport’s only airline.

Wizz Air Airbus Getty take off
Photo: Getty Images

Wizz is struggling

Wizz Air’s reputation has been hit hard during the pandemic, with the Hungarian LCC launching and suspending routes at an unprecedented pace.

The airline has closed bases in Cardiff, Doncaster/Sheffield, Sarajevo, Chisinau, Dortmund, Trondheim, Palermo, and Riga.

Just this week, Wizz Air announced its losses have grown by 25% to €63.8 in the six months to the end of September. This is despite its revenue more than doubling over the same period.

What do you think of Wizz Air pulling out of Sarajevo Airport? Let us know what you think of this story in the comments below.

Source: simpleflying.com

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