Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, which is a joint venture between Wizz Air and state-owned Abu Dhabi Development Holding, has just launched a new route to the Maldives. However, it’s a significantly longer flight than you’d expect…
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Wizz Air Abu Dhabi’s new route to the Maldives
On Tuesday, October 4, 2022, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi launched its new service between Abu Dhabi (AUH) and Male (MLE). The route is operated by an Airbus A321neo with the following schedule:
5W7105 Abu Dhabi to Male departing 1:30PM arriving 7:50PM
5W7106 Male to Abu Dhabi departing 8:45PM arriving 1:35AM (+1 day)
The 1,876-mile flight is blocked at 5hr20min from Abu Dhabi and 5hr50min to Abu Dhabi. That’s an awfully long time to cover that distance, and if you look at the flight path, you’ll see why.
For example, below is the map for the inaugural return flight from the Maldives to Abu Dhabi, which spent 5hr17min in the air. The plane ended up flying an actual distance of 2,611 miles, nearly 40% more than the direct distance.
As a point of comparison, Etihad Airways also operates this route with a Boeing 787-9, and that’s blocked at 4hr15min from Abu Dhabi and 3hr55min to Abu Dhabi. The flight to Abu Dhabi ordinarily takes 3hr30min in the air, and typically flies an actual distance of just over 1,900 miles, just a bit over 1% beyond the direct air distance between the airports.
Why does Wizz Air take this routing to the Maldives?
As you may have guessed based on the above maps, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi’s flight is way longer because the airline doesn’t fly direct(ish) between the two airports, but rather stays near land. When departing the Maldives, Wizz Air flies along the coast of India and Pakistan, and then across the Gulf of Oman, and then over Oman, before approaching Abu Dhabi.
This comes down to Wizz Air’s Airbus A321neos not having ETOPS certification. ETOPS stands for “extended range twin engine operations performance standards.” This is the certification that airlines require to be able to fly over large bodies of water, where there aren’t any nearby diversion points.
Getting ETOPS certification takes some effort and can be costly. Historically Wizz Air hasn’t needed ETOPS certification for many routes, given that both Wizz Air and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi haven’t operated many flights over large bodies of water.
However, you’d think that this is something the airline would consider as it looks to expand from Abu Dhabi.
- It’s unpleasant to be stuck on Wizz Air Abu Dhabi’s A321neos for nearly two more hours than needed
- It’s a huge waste of fuel and resources in general; I’m not sure how this is consistent with Wizz Air’s claim of being the world’s greenest airline
I’m curious to see if Wizz Air Abu Dhabi pursues ETOPS certification, or if the airline continues operating the route like this.
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi has launched flights to the Maldives, giving Etihad Airways some competition. While it’s cool to see an ultra low cost competitor in the market, it’s not particularly cool to see how Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is operating this route. Because the airline doesn’t have any ETOPS certified planes, the flight takes nearly an additional two hours, and covers about 40% more distance than a direct flight would.
I’m curious if Wizz Air Abu Dhabi works on getting ETOPS certification, or if the airline is just going to keep flying this unnecessarily inefficient routing. This seems like the kind of route you should only launch once you have ETOPS certification.
What do you make of Wizz Air Abu Dhabi’s new service to the Maldives?