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Wizz Air to cut flights from Hungary, to expand in UK

Wizz Air (WIZZ.L) will sharply reduce weekly flights to and from Hungary from Sept. 7, the airline said, after the government announced it would ban the entry of foreigners to try to rein in the coronavirus outbreak.

Hungary announced on Friday that it would close its borders to foreigners from Sept. 1 to curb a rise in infections and Hungarians returning from abroad will have to go into quarantine.

Wizz Air said in a statement that it would operate 32 flights per week between Sept. 7 and 30, down from around 126 flights in the Sept. 1-6 period.

On Sunday, Hungary recorded 292 new infections, the highest daily number since the start of the pandemic. Hungary has had a total of 5,961 coronavirus cases and 614 deaths.

“From Sept. 7 until 30 a greater reduction in flights can be expected, and only the most popular routes will remain available for passengers,” the airline said.

The low-cost airline, which in recent years has expanded from eastern into western Europe, has been one of the fastest airlines to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

Wizz Air warned last week that its recovery could stall as COVID-19 warnings and restrictions hamper travel across Europe but said Britain’s quarantine rules had not led it reconsider long-term expansion plans there.

The low-cost airline, which in recent years has expanded from eastern into western Europe, has been one of the fastest airlines to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, currently flying at 80% of last year’s capacity.

However, ticket data shows Europe’s travel recovery began to stall in August after a stronger performance in July, and Wizz said 80 per cent capacity was as high as it could go under current circumstances, and that capacity might fall again.

“From here on, either you’re going to be able to hold the line or somewhat come down on capacity,” CEO Jozsef Varadi told Reuters. Bigger rival Ryanair said last week it was scaling back plans to run up to 70 per cent of its capacity by October, while easyJet plans to fly 40 per cent of last year’s capacity by the fourth quarter. Since the pandemic struck, Wizz has stuck to expansion plans, announcing ten new bases in the last three months, but Varadi conceded “we are not immune from the short term issues.”

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