European Aviation Symposium

Wizz Air CEO criticises Polish takeover of German leisure airline Condor

Wizz Air CEO József Váradi opposes the PGL - Condor deal.
Wizz Air CEO József Váradi opposes the PGL - Condor deal.

The CEO of Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air has strongly criticised the planned acquisition of Condor by Poland's LOT and aims to block the deal at EU level.

Speaking at the European Aviation Symposium in Munich on Tuesday, József Váradi, founder of the fast-growing Eastern European airline, denounced the takeover of the former Thomas Cook subsidiary by LOT's parent company PGL as "combined nonsense". He disclosed that Wizz Air had already officially contacted the European Commission to oppose the deal.

Váradi said LOT had been supported by the state for years and saved from insolvency by the Polish government a few years ago. "Warsaw is a miserable place for every other airline because the government does everything to support LOT," he claimed.

He also criticised the German state's financial support for Condor, contrasting it with the British government's decision not to support Thomas Cook Group. "With Thomas Cook, the British government let the rules of the market apply. Germany should have done that as well," he said.

In terms of Wizz Air's own strategy, the CEO said the Hungarian carrier was not interested in acquisitions "as this would only increase the complexity". He claimed that the budget airline had the lowest costs and the highest operating margin among European carriers and could thus expand organically.

Condor confident of takeover approval

Meanwhile, Condor is confident that the takeover by PGL, which was presented last Friday, will be approved by EU authorities.

"We believe the approval from regulatory authorities for the takeover by PGL will not be a problem," the airline's sales & marketing director, Paul Schwaiger, said at the aviation conference on Wednesday. "I don't see anything that we cannot manage in the coming 8 – 10 weeks."

Schwaiger highlighted potential operational and commercial synergies with LOT and confirmed the idea of Condor entering the Polish leisure flights market. "There are a lot of tour operators there, and Poles enjoy booking package holidays just like Germans," he commented.

The Condor sales chief was also relaxed about the airline's commercial cooperation with Lufthansa for feeder flights serving its long-haul routes. "The cooperation has been there for a long time, it works very well, and the interlining is good business for both sides," he said.

However, opinions about the Condor – PGL deal amongst the 120 participants at the European Aviation Symposium were mixed, with about 50% of respondents in an informal poll saying they were sceptical about it.

The two-day European Aviation Symposium was organised by fvw, aviation consultancy Prologis and the Travel Industry Club.