Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air is aiming to operate one million flights per year with a fleet of around 500 aircraft, the company’s CEO said as the airline celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Speaking to Hungarian news site Index, CEO József Váradi outlined some of the airline’s goals for the future, including a desire to bring its annual passenger numbers to more than 170 million, an increase of about 170%, by adding more than 300 aircraft to its fleet. 

He said: “Expanding the aircraft fleet to half a thousand creates the opportunity to establish new base airports and even new airlines. Continuous growth is the driving force of our business model, which includes the expansion of geographic destinations.” 

Wizz Air is one of the biggest airlines in Europe by passengers, with more than 63 million using its services in 2023 across its four subsidiaries, but has often been outpaced in the low-cost sector by rivals such as Ryanair, which operates around 1.3m annual flights. 

Wizz has already ordered the aircraft needed to fulfil its fleet ambitions, with around 270 A321neos on order with Airbus, along with orders for A321XLR and A320neo planes. 

In June 2023, Wizz Air became the first in Europe to receive an A321neo built at Airbus’s factory in China, a delivery which also saw the model make up more than 50% of the company’s fleet for the first time. 

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Despite this, Váradi, who is also a co-founder of the airline, revealed that while his company had managed to build capacity since the Covid-19 pandemic, its fleet had also struggled with the geopolitical climate and issues with aircraft engines. 

The CEO revealed that 20% of Wizz Air’s fleet was currently grounded as inspections were conducted on Pratt & Whitney engines following Boeing’s advisory to ground all 777 aircraft equipped with PW400 engines in 2021 after an incident on a United Airlines 777-200.

The airline was also forced to re-allocate the 13% of its fleet being used in Russia and Ukraine in recent years following Russia’s invasion of its neighbouring country.