An “aggressive” new sickness policy recently introduced at Ryanair’s Austrian subsidiary Laudamotion has been blasted by a pilots union who claim the rules are forcing unwell cabin crew and pilots to report for work when they are not fit to operate a flight. In one case, the Austrian Cockpit Association (ACA) claims a flight attendant fainted during a flight because she was scared of reporting sick.
The flight attendant had to be taken to hospital where she was found to have pneumonia.
The so-called ‘Presence Policy’ was apparently adopted from Ryanair’s own work rules in a bid to improve performance and reduce the number of sick days at the Vienna-based budget carrier. Ryanair is attempting to turn the loss-making airline around after initially buying a 75 per cent in March 2018 and going on to acquire the whole business in January.
Laudamotion will remain loss-making for at least another year and with stiff competition in the Austrian and German markets, revenue per guest remains below ambitious targets. Ryanair hopes to get its Austrian subsidiary to breakeven at some point in 2021, helped in part through a “cost reduction” programme and increased efficiencies.
“While Laudamotion cabin crew are celebrated in public with new red uniforms, many employees do not even laugh,” a press release from the ACA said.
The new sickness policy is relatively simple. Any crew member who has 10 or more sick days in a rolling 12-month period receives a “scary” warning letter which goes into “meticulous” detail about how an individual’s poor performance is bad for the company. If a crew member has 12 or more sick days within a year then they face being sacked.
One Austrian newspaper claims a flight attendant was sacked after accruing 14-days sick leave within a year – to put that in perspective, the Austrian national average is 13-days sick leave per employee a year.
Luadamotion allegedly makes it difficult to report sick in the first place
But the ACA also accuses Laudamotion of making it incredibly difficult to report sick in the first place. Crew allegedly have to get in contact with the company at least two hours before their duty to report ill – and at that point, they also have to have a note from their doctor to confirm they’re sick.
If flight attendants or pilots don’t meet this target then the company records their absence as a “refusal to fly” – presumably that makes it easier to take disciplinary action.
“Sick flight crews are a security risk, especially if they are worried about the job,” Isabel Doppelreiter, President of ACA warns. “Passengers who buy cheap tickets should be aware that the price they pay may be very high.”
The ACA points out that Laudamotion isn’t an average employer – instead, it employs safety professionals who have a great deal of responsibility for the security and wellbeing of passengers. They can only carry out these important duties if they are fit and well.
But of course, working long hours in a pressurised metal tube surrounded by hundreds of people in close confines means that flight attendants are prone to getting sick – more so than the average office worker. It’s exactly why a U.S. flight attendant union is so unhappy with American Airlines for its sickness and performance policy.
We reached out to Laudamotion for comment on the allegations raised by the ACA but had not received a reply by the time of publication.