Wizz Air: Luggage changes have to wait until we train our staff

Clients of the Wizz Air airline will no longer have to pay for bigger hand luggage with a new service to be launched in late October.

Wizz Air, illustrative stock photoWizz Air, illustrative stock photo (Source: TASR)

Passengers of the low cost air carrier Wizz Air will be able to carry luggage item as large as 55x40x23cm on board as of the end of October. The service will be included in the price of the ticket.

Since the airline is launching the service later, some customers have already paid for their luggage. The company promises that passengers will be reimbursed with 120 percent of the sum they paid.

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“We wanted to make sure we would have the time to educate not just our ground staff but also our passengers,” says Johan Eidhagen, Chief Marketing Officer at Wizz Air, in an interview for the Sme daily.

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On Wednesday you announced a new product in passenger baggage options. What was the reason for making this change?
We are changing our luggage policy to make it friendlier, customer-oriented and transparent. We always try to improve our quality of service, and although 80 percent of our customers rate us as being ”good” or ”very good” in terms of quality of service, one of the places where we see we can improve is our cabin bag policy, so our objective was to make it easier to understand and, of course, to make it more competitive as well. That’s why we’re introducing this service now.

Do you have customer research showing that this new service is something they prefer?
As the airline matures and as passenger traffic improves, we see it as an opportunity to make these changes for the better, for passengers. The big change of course is that we are taking away the fees that we charge for bringing a large cabin bag and instead allowing people to bring a cabin bag for free, up to the size of 55 x 40 x 23, which is 50 percent bigger than the small cabin bag that we currently have.

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Why is Wizz Air putting this change into effect in October, rather than during the summer travel season?
October is the start of the winter season, and we wanted to make it a clean break. We operate currently to 142 airports across Europe, so of course making an operational change, we wanted to ensure that we have the time to educate our ground staff and our passengers.

Can you explain how the changes will work?
Of course all passengers have included in the basic price for free a bag up to this size. A passenger can also, if they want, purchase a Wizz Priority product, which allows them to be the first onboard of the aircraft and also bring two bags. Plus, in case of a full aircraft, you will also be guaranteed to bring your bags onboard. That is the main change. We are also implementing a change on our checked-in bag. Currently Wizz allows you to bring up to 32 kilos of checked-in luggage, and you can purchase up to six times this product for a passenger, so we have one of the most generous rules. What we’re doing is that we’re lowering the size of our small bag from 23 kilos to 20 kilos, which is in alignment with what most passengers bring in as a weight.

Does the change mean that flights will be more expensive for customers?
No, absolutely not. We are strongly committed to providing the absolute lowest fares. We will continue to offer fares from 2.99 EUR , and within that, now you even get more for the same low price. Our ambition has always been to be able to push prices as low as possible, and we now have the lowest fare class available. We will also continue to improve the passenger comfort and passenger service, so this is one of those steps that we are taking to make it easier and simpler for passengers to travel with us.

How will it affect Wizz Air’s finances when passengers no longer pay for larger luggage?
In terms of our financial results, we have planned for this introduction, and we don’t see that this will impact our financial results. We have a good performance on our ancillary service. Currently, about 20 percent of passengers have paid for a large cabin bag, and we believe that this is a revenue that we will offset through other ancillary products that we will introduce.

Was this product preferred by your customers? Do your customers want to bring big luggage in the plane? Have your customers shown a preference for this? Do you find that customers want to bring larger luggage on a plane?
JE: There are always customers who need to bring large luggage and choose to either bring up to 10 kilograms for free onboard the plane or upgrade to a checked-in bag if they want to bring a heavier bag. So I think this just improves what’s included in the basic fare, rather than really impacting the rest of the operations.

Your products are used by people from Slovakia too, since you fly from Bratislava, Košice and Poprad. Did your Slovak customers also show that they wanted this?
Absolutely. We follow our customers and asked them what they think, and this was also one of the things that came up with the Slovakian customers, that they wanted an easier-to-understand and better service for cabin bags, especially for customers who are maybe connecting between different airlines or flying in and out on different airlines, having a simple-to-understand cabin bag policy which is aligning with the IATA standard and makes sense both for us and for passengers.

How will this change set you apart from Ryanair or EasyJet or other airlines in Europe?
It will be aligning on the principles of bags, but we still pride ourselves on having the highest standards in safety, reliability, on-time performance and the quality of the staff and the service that we provide onboard. Of course, we are always very competitive on price and we always try to provide the lowest-possible fares, but this is really about improving the service quality so that you can get more for your money and a better value for money.

Do you expect to have more customers when this change begins?
We believe, of course, that we have ambitions to grow and develop every year. Currently we’re growing at a rate of 25 percent in the first quarter year-on -year. Our ambition is to surpass that. We have an additional 110 aircraft on order which are coming. Our growth in Slovakia is 28 percent so far this year, so we have to not only invest into new aircraft and into opening new routes, but we also need to invest into providing a better service. I think this is just part of the company’s strategy to always improve what we offer to the customer.

This is a new step for Wizz Air. What was the reason for it?
The step is that we will make it easier for customers to fly with us and easier for customers to compare prices between airlines by aligning the basic policies. I think that will make it just more competitive for us, and we will be able to attract more customers. That is the ultimate goal. There are some smaller benefits from this, of course, but this is really about making our service even better and us attracting more passengers and making them fly with us again.

Are you preparing any other new services or changes for your customers in the future?
We will always invest into new markets, into new routes, into more frequencies, but especially we see big opportunities for us to improve in ancillary services. Currently about 40 percent of our total revenue comes from ancillary services. Ancillary services are growing faster than ticket revenue, and we will continue to invest into new services. I think this is just one small step in terms of making the passenger comfort better, but then it comes from improving more services for the customers, such as everything from booking hotels, package holidays, parking, renting a car, getting a bus transfer, finding out information about your destination, weather, maps, etc. Our ambition is to really guide the customer along their journey, from when they start looking at where they want to go to when they arrive.

When will these be introduced?
We are continuously rolling out new services, so we will all the time, of course, be making small changes to the improvements of our service, but at the same time, at some point we will make big announcements such as the one today.

In Slovakia, you fly from Bratislava to Košice and Poprad. Do you have an interest in opening a base in Bratislava?
Currently, we have a base in Košice. I think that is quite new. Bratislava is growing very fast for us, and that’s something that we are investing into. We have six routes on sale currently to Bratislava. We are evaluating the position on whether or not these routes serve… I will leave that open for now.


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