Is Wizz Air beating Ryanair at being the best low-cost?

Is Wizz Air beating Ryanair at being the best low-cost? 4 March 2019
Wizz Air

Think Ryanair is king of the low-cost, think again. Fellow ULCC Wizz Air is beating the master at its own game.

Having just updated the cost data within Network Grandstand, Europe’s original LCC performance monitoring system, here is an interesting graphic comparing seat costs for a Ryanair 737-800 (189 seats) with a similarly-sized Wizz Air A320 (180 seats) on a typical two-hour sector. As might be expected, Ryanair is the winner by approximately seven Euros with savings particularly evident on aircraft ownership (standing charges). However that is not the end of the story. This is because Wizz Air has driven very high industry-leading ancillary revenues ─ now standing at almost 42% ─ the actual fare required to break-even at 80% load factor is only €35.58, a full Euro and a half lower than that of Ryanair!

Wizz AirA321 wipes floor with 737-800

As you would expect, the Budapest-based carrier’s larger 230-seat A321 is even better. No wonder the ULCC can not take its ordered A321s into its fleet fast enough!! With similar seat costs to the Ryanair 737-800, the break-even fare is over six Euros less than that of Ryanair. Although it should be pointed out that the ULCC need 184 passengers, 32 more than Ryanair’s 152 passengers in order to be able to achieve this fare. Either way, Wizz Air has truly become Europe’s low-fare airline!

Base advantage

According to, Wizz Air has 36 A321s in operation (as of 4 March 2019), with four being used by its UK operation Wizz Air UK, and the remainder registered on the main carrier’s AOC. According to FR24 data, these aircraft are predominantly split across the ULCC’s main bases, with seven located at its biggest operation at Budapest, six in Bucharest, as well as four in each of London Luton, Warsaw Chopin and Vienna airports. The Bulgarian capital of Sofia has three units, with the remaining eight A321s split equally over Sokpje, Gdansk, Vilnius and Katowice. It is interesting to note that only two of these airports are not within the top 10 bases for Wizz Air, namely Skopje (13th largest base) and Vilnius (16th). Also noteworthy is the fact that at Skopje Wizz Air is the #1 carrier, and Ryanair is not present in that market at all. Although the Hungarian ULCC retains its top spot in terms of annual one-way capacity in Lithuania, its Irish rival is a very close #2, with less than 25,000 seats difference between the two in Vilnius.

Biggest bases – annual one-way seats for 2019 (based A321s)
Wizz Air Ryanair
Budapest (BUD) 2.35m (seven) London Stansted (STN) 10.06m
London Luton (LTN) 2.22m (four) Dublin (DUB) 6.59m
Bucharest (OTP) 1.78m (six) Milan Bergamo (BGY) 4.99m
Warsaw Chopin (WAW) 1.39m (four) Barcelona (BCN) 3.60m
Gdansk (GDN) 1.18m (two) Madrid (MAD) 3.11m
Katowice (KTW) 1.06m (two) Brussels Charleroi (CRL) 2.99m
Vienna (VIE) 1.05m (four) Palma de Mallorca (PMI) 2.80m
Sofia (SOF) 0.95m (three) Manchester (MAN) 2.56m
Cluj-Napoca (CLJ) 0.91m (none) Rome Ciampino (CIA) 2.38m
Dortmund (DTM) 0.85m (none) Malaga (AGP) 2.32m

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