Rising in the east 从东方起飞

2020.10


A go-getting Hungarian airline sees opportunity in the pandemic
一家雄心勃勃的匈牙利航空公司在疫情中看到机遇 

 

Rising in the east 从东方起飞


Helping purple get back in the black THE MOOD among airline bosses can seem uniformly bleak. For good reason: air travel may not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024. Not a week goes by without an airline sacking thousands of workers. Against this gloom, Jozsef Varadi, who runs Wizz Air, cuts an audacious figure. While other airlines cancel and defer orders for new planes and put expansion plans on ice, he wants to increase his fleet from 127 planes to 160 by 2022 and double passenger numbers to 80m by 2025. He believes the Hungarian low-cost carrier, founded 17 years ago and now Europe’s third-biggest behind Ryanair and EasyJet, will not only survive covid-19 but thrive.
航空公司老板们似乎全体情绪低落。这很容易理解:航空旅行可以要等到2024年才能恢复到疫情前水平。每周都有一家航空公司裁掉数千名员工。在这种灰暗的背景下,匈牙利威兹航空公司(Wizz Air)的老板约瑟夫•瓦劳迪(Jozsef Varadi)显得格外大胆。虽然其他航空公司纷纷取消或延迟新飞机订单,搁置扩张计划,他却想在2022年之前将机队从127架扩大至160架,在2025年前使乘客数翻番至8000万。他相信,这家于17年前成立、目前仅次于瑞安和易捷的欧洲第三大低成本航空公司不仅会渡过疫情难关,还将蒸蒸日上。
Can the plan fly? “The odds are it will,” says Keith McMullan of Aviation Strategy, a consultancy. Wizz Air managed to report a 19% rise in revenues in the 12 months to March, to €2.8bn ($3.1bn). Net profits doubled year on year, to €281m. Despite unavoidable losses this year, it has sustained less covid-19 damage than rivals.
他的计划能实现吗?“大概率可以。”咨询公司“航空战略”(Aviation Strategy)的基思•麦克马伦(Keith McMullan)说。在截至3月的12个月里,威兹实现了19%的营收增长,达到28亿欧元(31亿美元)。净利润同比增长一倍,达到2.81亿欧元。尽管今年将不可避免地出现亏损,但威兹因疫情遭受的损失小于竞争对手。
Luck played a role. Wizz Air’s customers are on average 32 years old—younger than those of rivals and less fearful of the virus. It caters to many central and eastern Europeans working in the west, who are keen to fly home frequently. Wizz Air’s smaller fleet, less than a third the size of Ryanair’s and half of EasyJet’s, meant it could keep a bigger share of its aircraft in the air.
其中有运气的因素。威兹的乘客平均年龄32岁——比竞争对手的乘客更年轻,不那么担心病毒。威兹迎合了许多在西欧工作的中东欧人的需要,他们喜欢经常飞回家。威兹的机队规模较小,不到瑞安的三分之一和易捷的一半,因而闲置飞机的占比可能更小。
Wizz Air’s resilience is not all down to good fortune. Mr Varadi’s focus on costs helped, too. He claims Wizz Air’s are the lowest in the business, thanks mainly to the industry’s largest fleet of super-efficient Airbus A321s (though he got lucky here, too, by not picking Boeing’s rival 737 MAX jets, the grounding of which after two fatal crashes has delayed deliveries to big buyers like Ryanair). Using the biggest version of the single-aisle workhorse has helped to spread expenses among more passengers. One estimate put Wizz Air’s unit costs at half those of EasyJet, an airline that increasingly resembles the legacy carriers it once sought to subvert. And Mr Varadi has pulled this off without irritating passengers or gaining a Ryanair-like reputation for stinginess.
但威兹的抗冲击力也不完全是因为好运气。瓦劳迪对成本的关注发挥了作用。他声称威兹的成本是业内最低的,这主要归功于它拥有业内最大规模的超高效空客A321机队(不过在这一点上他也很走运,因为他没有选择A321的竞争机型波音737 MAX喷气式客机,这一机型在发生两起致命事故后停飞,并推迟了向瑞安等大买家的交付)。使用最大版本的单通道主力机型帮助将费用分摊给了更多乘客。据一项估计,威兹的单位成本只有易捷的一半,而易捷如今越来越像它曾经试图颠覆的传统航空公司。瓦劳迪成功做到了这些,却既没有惹恼乘客,也没落得瑞安那般吝啬的名声。
Now, thanks to mass lay-offs of pilots, cabin crew and other staff, labour costs are tumbling. Empty airports are wooing carriers with cheap landing slots and discounts on other charges. That has allowed Wizz Air to set up ten new bases in the past three months, including at London’s Gatwick airport, as well as in Germany, Albania and Russia. Plans to serve the Persian Gulf in a joint venture with Abu Dhabi’s sovereign-wealth fund remain on track.
现在,由于大批飞行员、乘务员和其他工作人员被裁,人工成本在暴跌。空旷的机场正在用廉价的降落时段和其他费用折扣争取航空公司。这让威兹得以在过去三个月内建成十个新基地,包括在伦敦盖特威克机场,以及在德国、阿尔巴尼亚和俄罗斯的机场。与阿布扎比主权财富基金成立合资企业以服务波斯湾的计划继续推进。 
Things could still go wrong. On September 1st, as European countries reimposed travel restrictions, Wizz Air tempered its plans to return to 80% capacity next quarter. It is now aiming for 60%, still better than 45% or so for most European rivals. Its share price is below its peak in mid-February, but back where it was at the start of the year (see chart). Mr Varadi says Wizz Air’s €1.5bn in cash would last 20 months even if all its planes stop flying. He relishes the chance to “sort winners from losers”. No points for guessing which group he thinks his firm belongs to.
但事情仍不好说。9月1日,由于欧洲国家重新实施旅行限制,威兹调整了下一季度将运力恢复到80%的计划。现在它的目标是60%,仍高于大多数欧洲竞争对手的45%左右。威兹的股价低于2月中旬的峰值,但回到了年初的位置(见图表)。瓦劳迪说,就算自家飞机全部停飞,公司的15亿欧元现金也能维持20个月。他很乐意有机会“分出赢家和输家”。不用猜也知道他觉得自己的公司属于哪一队。