Wizz Air to keep growing as east Europeans fly more
* Wizz Air has grown to be biggest low-cost carrier in eastern Europe
* Financing from U.S.-based Indigo Partners was vital
* Rapid expansion to continue as Wizz explores new markets
By Marton Dunai
BUDAPEST, July 17 (Reuters) - When a group of Hungarian businessmen told the manager of a shabby air strip in southern Poland that they wanted it as a base for a new airline, none of them had any idea that it would quickly become the biggest low-cost carrier in eastern Europe.
Wizz Air's maiden flight to London took off from Katowice in May 2004. It now has over 300 routes, annual revenues of 1 billion euros, counts Ryanair, another no-frills airline as its main competitor, and dominates air travel in a region with faster economic growth than the rest of Europe.
Organic expansion in the region and as far afield as Moscow, Tel-Aviv or Dubai is set to continue while a new phase of growth is likely to come from Wizz Air exploiting the difficulties of state-backed regional airlines that are struggling to survive.
"These airlines either disappear, or merge, or shrink a lot from their current size," said Jozsef Varadi, Wizz Air chief executive and a former Procter & Gamble executive.
"Either way that means opportunity for Wizz Air." Continuación...