* Q3 loss 213.6 mln euros, Q4 loss seen higher
* Expects strong recovery by August, September
LONDON, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Budget airline Wizz Air
warned its fourth-quarter loss would likely top the 213.6
million euros ($241.2 million) third-quarter hit reported on
Wednesday, before an expected recovery takes off fueled by
demand from Britain.
The Hungary-based carrier said the emergence of the Omicron
coronavirus variant had hit sales in the latter part of its
fiscal third quarter, and it expected to be impacted by ongoing
travel uncertainty in January, February and part of March.
European airlines have been on a rollercoaster ride over the
last year as governments dropped, and then sometimes reimposed,
restrictions that increased both the cost and hassle of travel
in a bid to contain waves of the pandemic.
CEO Jozsef Varadi told Reuters Wizz Air had cut costs and
acquired new landing slots, meaning it was in a stronger
position to compete with the likes of Ryanair and
easyJet once the long-expected recovery comes.
He said the airline had seen demand jump in Britain after
the government announced an easing to restrictions on Monday. As
a group it expects to operate 50% more capacity in August and
September than the pre-pandemic 2019 summer.
"We are expecting a very strong recovery path of demand in
the next few months," he said.
Ryanair said earlier this month its confidence levels had
undergone a "sea change" in recent weeks, as the perceived
threat from Omicron eases and public attitudes to travel
improve. EasyJet reports on Thursday.
Varadi noted, however, that input costs were rising, with
fuel, wages and regulatory changes all adding pressure, meaning
that fare prices would need to go up in the short term.
While Ryanair said it expected fares to rise due to lower
available capacity, after airlines failed or shrank, Varadi said
he expected there to be overcapacity in the next three to six
months as rivals return to the market.
He said the question for 2022 would be which airline had the
most efficient cost base to offer competitive prices while
juggling higher input costs. Wizz Air had liquidity of 1.4
billion euros at the end of December.
Barclays said the update was in line with expectations but
noted that solid passenger numbers came with weak pricing. Wizz
Air's shares were up 2.5% in early trade.
($1 = 0.8857 euros)
(Reporting by Kate Holton Editing by Paul Sandle and Mark