The chief executive of one of the largest airlines in Europe has told pilots that they should “go the extra mile” while seemingly suggesting that they should operate flights while suffering from fatigue.
Wizz Air CEO József Váradi told pilots in a leaked video message that everyone was “fatigued” and that the number of pilots going sick was costing the airline huge sums in compensation payouts and brand damage.
The European Air Safety Agency says fatigue is one of the main factors affecting human performance and in many countries pilots are legally obliged to refuse to fly if they believe they are fatigued or at risk of becoming fatigued.
Europe-wide ‘flight time limitation’ rules are designed to prevent or reduce the risk of aircrew becoming fatigued but experts acknowledge that black and white guidelines can’t account for individual circumstances and that pilots might still become fatigued even if FTL rules are adhered to.
Many airlines have their own fatigue monitoring software that is designed to predict how much pilot performance could be affected if they worked certain trip patterns.
In one case involving now-defunct airline Thomas Cook, managers took disciplinary action against a pilot for going fatigued even though their own fatigue monitoring software predicted a performance loss equivalent to being four times over the legal alcohol limit for flying.
“Now that everyone is getting back into work, I understand that fatigue is a potential outcome of the issues but once we are starting stabilizing the rosters we also need to take down the fatigue rate,” Váradi told pilots in the leaked video message.
“I mean we cannot run this business when every fifth person of a base reports sickness because the person is fatigued. We are all fatigued. But sometimes it is required to go the extra mile,” he continued.
“The damage is huge when we are cancelling a flight. It’s huge. It’s reputational damage of the brand and it is the other financial damage, the transactional damage because we have to pay compensation.”
Budapest-based Wizz Air has quickly grown to become one of the largest airlines in Europe and even has an outpost in Abu Dhabi. Workers groups have, however, long been critical of Wizz Air’s employment practices and the European Cockpit Association describe the airline as a “social misfit”.
On Wednesday, Wizz Air said it planned to operate its “largest-ever summer flying programme” with the fastest growth in the industry.
The British Air Line Pilots Association slammed Váradi over the leaked video saying it was “shocked” by his comments and demanded he “swiftly clarify” that he would not ask pilots to fly fatigued.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.