Hungary-based Wizz Air is under fire from unions after its chief executive claimed flight crew are taking off work when fatigued and damaging the brand’s reputation.
In an internal briefing, CEO Jozsef Varadi said that “we are all fatigued” but it is “required to take the extra mile” amid the ongoing aviation challenges.
The video was informing staff on key business updates, after the European low-cost carrier has been forced to continuously cancel flights over staffing shortages in air traffic control and ground handling
“I understand that fatigue is a potential outcome of the issues, but once we are starting stabilising the rosters, we also need to take down the fatigue rate. I mean, we cannot run this business when every fifth person of a base reports sickness because the person is fatigued,” said Varadi.
He said cancelling flights has created “reputational damage of the brand and it is the other financial damage, the transactional damage, because we have to pay compensation”.
The European Cockpit Association, a pilot union that represents crew from Wizz, wrote a letter to European safety regulators about how the briefing displays a deeper issue within the company’s safety culture.
“The message of the CEO to his air crew is clear: to avoid reputational and commercial damage to the airline, air crew must lower their fatigue rates by flying fatigued and not calling in sick/fatigued,” the letter read.
“This reinforces our previously shared concerns about Wizz Air’s deficient corporate culture, where inadmissible pressure is exerted on crew to fly on their days off, to extend flight times under ‘commanders’ discretion’ and to refrain from reporting fatigued. Such corporate behaviour is detrimental to passenger flight safety.”
However, the issue is not exclusive to Wizz Air, as ongoing staffing shortages have plagued most European airlines especially as travel returns to pre-pandemic levels and companies cope with the higher passenger numbers.
The company is also battling rising losses in its latest fiscal year financial results ending in March, climbing to €642.5 million compared to €576 million last year.
Meanwhile, in a statement to Simple Flying, Wizz Air claimed the clip had been edited from a briefing on current challenges facing aviation, and that the company has been suffering with low staff availability.
“Our crew unavailability has been very low, at 4%. In this context, going the extra mile to minimize disruption was discussed,” the airline said.
“What this does not mean is compromising safety. Wizz Air and the airline industry are highly regulated, and safety has, and always will be, our first priority. We have a robust and responsible crew management system which meets the needs of our people and enables us to serve as many customers as possible in the current challenging environment.”
Fatigue is something we all have when 1, we work too many hours. 2, we don’t get the required sleep before we have to go on out next flight. I as a Captain for Air NZ know first hand how that feels, It slows me down a lot in decision making before I even head into the flight deck of the very B773 I will have to pilot. As a fatigued flight crew member, my performance is not at it’s best. Mania fatigued pilot or flight crew have not been able to identify what the aircraft is trying to say to to us as a pilot. As a result it’s resulted in avoidable crashes and injuries to the very passengers that we are trusted to fly from the departure point to our destination. I’ve seen many of my friends whom flew for other airlines die as a result of being fatigued. It’s not on the a CEO would want his or her flight crews be fatigued, and to just carry on as if they were not, to earn a quick buck, because they do not care about they way these flight crews have been worked.
Klaus Michael von Rethsays:
There is a big difference between being fatigued in an operational safety sensitive environment, or in a operational non-safety sensitive area. For a start operational safety sensitive areas have a very limited margin for corrective action being taken so as to ensure the safety of equipment, the travelling public. as well the environment. Therfore, Training Rules and Guidelines, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Safety Rules and Regulations and Safety Standards have been developed and implemented, by Regulators, International Organisations, as well as relevant Authorities and Companies. There is enough literature and evidence available to show that fatigue is an issue, and that it should not be dealt with in such a generalised and laissez-faire fashion as stated by the CEO of WIZZAIR, and reported in this article. If Management believes that a genuine safety related issue such as Staff fatigue causes commercial, brand and reputational damage, then imagine what consequences a serious fatigue related accident would have. Maybe for a start, the company could use Human Factors principles and Flight Duty Time Regulations as utilised in other advanced aviation nations, as well as published by internationl organisations, so as to effectively reduce the rate of crew suffering and rightly reporting fatigue related issues.