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Wizz Air drives Luton expansion with new routes

[BERLIN] Low-cost carrier Wizz Air announced further expansion from London's Luton airport on Wednesday, weeks after picking up slots from collapsed airline Monarch at the airport.

Three new routes to Athens, Reykjavik and Bari plus additional capacity on Cyprus flights next year will mean Wizz is increasing the number of seats it offers from Luton by 23 per cent next year.

The airline, listed in London but based in Budapest, had in November said it would increase the number of aircraft it stations at Luton by an extra 2 to 7 following the acquisition of Monarch slots.

"The slots give us the opportunity to consolidate our position at Luton," Chief Corporate Officer Owain Jones told Reuters via telephone, saying Wizz was now a very close second behind easyJet at the airport.

The airline's exposure to central and eastern Europe has shielded it from the fiercest competition on Mediterranean and Western European routes, which contributed to the demise of the likes of Monarch and Air Berlin.

"It's fair to say that the strength of demand that we see in the UK is coming out of London," Mr Jones said. "We see London as a strong market for us despite everything." Wizz has applied for a British operating licence to help protect its flying rights following Britain's exit from the EU and Jones said that should be up and running in early 2018.

When asked if the carrier would be interested in any assets of Air Berlin unit Niki, which is looking for a new buyer after Lufthansa scrapped a deal, Jones said Wizz's preference was to grow on its own, "Our growth plans are very much organic. We have a very successful model and that model will continue growing," he said.