Wizz Air's expansion is being challenged by a shortage of line maintenance personnel and facilities in eastern Europe.

The budget carrier's chief technical officer Heiko Holm told delegates at the MRO Europe conference in London on 3 October that there was a tendency among line maintenance engineers in the region to move to western Europe for better-paid jobs. This leaves line maintenance providers in a position of frequently having to train new staff at high cost, he notes.

As Wizz plans to grow its fleet from the current 86 Airbus A320/A321s to 122 aircraft in 2021, the maintenance staff shortage is "becoming significant", Holm warns.

He expresses doubt that the situation will improve on its own, and suggests that different line maintenance providers should co-operate with governments to establish training schools with at least partial public funding. "We believe governments have to step in," Holm says.

Wizz intends to reduce its support requirement at outstations by employing predictive maintenance procedures, which would enable the airline to remove parts at base, before failures, and thus improve reliability. But Holm argues that the technology has not progressed far enough to have a meaningful effect on the airline's operations today. He says he hopes relevant systems can be developed over the next two years.

Beyond the line technician shortage, there are not enough hangars for line maintenance activities in eastern Europe, says Holm, noting that this is "also becoming a headache" for Wizz. The carrier is is looking for partners to jointly establish line maintenance hangars in the region.

Holm acknowledges that manufacturers are expanding their aftermarket support activities, but says: "We do not support it." He argues that competition among different service providers is a vital ingredient in a low-cost carrier's business model.

Source: Cirium Dashboard