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Wizz Air says to expand fleet, sees good growth in Middle East

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - European budget carrier Wizz Air is planning to grow its fleet to above 200 aircraft next year and 500 aircraft by 2030, the company said on Tuesday, adding that its expansion in the Middle East offered opportunities.

Wizz Air President Robert Carey told a news briefing that the core growth in coming years would still come from Central and Eastern Europe, adding that in the West "we are happy with where we are now."

In the Middle East Wizz has been the first airline bringing ultra low cost service to the region, Carey said, adding the company was planning to grow its service in Abu Dhabi this summer, and also increase the number of routes into Saudi Arabia to 24 from 12.

"Its a very exciting region...really growing in terms of people's interest as well," Carey said.

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On Tuesday Wizz also announced it would expand the number of flights to many European destinations from Budapest including Barcelona, Napoli, Bari, Rome, and Berlin and also to Dubai, among others. It expects to carry 43 million passengers from Budapest this year.

Wizz Air, whose main operations are in central and eastern Europe, has air operator certificates (AOCs) in Hungary and the United Kingdom.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, a branded joint venture between the airline and the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund, has a United Arab Emirates AOC.

Wizz Air CEO Jozsef Varadi at the same press briefing dismissed any speculation about a potential takeover by a rival airline.

"No one can buy us, we cannot be bought out," Varadi said firmly.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than, Editing by Louise Heavens)