March 23, 2020 / 3:00 PM / 17 days ago

UPDATE 1-Wizz Air could ground entire fleet if coronavirus crisis deepens

(Adds details, CEO comment and background)

March 23 (Reuters) - Hungary-based Wizz Air warned on Monday that grounding its entire fleet remained a “distinct possibility” as global travel restrictions could make international flying for commercial purposes “untenable or impossible”.

Travel and leisure businesses have been among the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with hundreds of billions of dollars in business trips and holidays cancelled as countries impose draconian restrictions to try to curb its spread.

“This situation is posing a significant threat on the aviation industry and we call on governments to take non-discriminatory steps that will benefit all airlines,” Chief Executive Officer József Váradi said.

The low-cost carrier said it cut its capacity by 30% in March and grounded 85% of its fleet this week, and also implemented more cost-cutting measures to stem the impact from lower travel demand.

“Wizz Air is confident in its ability to survive even a potential prolonged grounding substantially beyond the current estimates for the impact of COVID-19 in Europe,” the company said in a statement.

The carrier said it continues to operate 15% of its capacity and remains operational in Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria, and will resume all flights after travel restrictions are lowered and governments permit commercial operations.

Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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