Backlash After Wizz Air CEO Calls Out Pilots Reporting Fatigue

WizzAir co-founder and CEO József Váradi has come under fire from numerous industry stakeholders regarding comments he made in a recent internal video regarding employee fatigue rates. The head of the Hungarian carrier has suggested that fatigued crew should ‘go the extra mile’ rather than reporting their tiredness.

A serious matter

Fatigue among airline employees is, unsurprisingly for such a safety-driven industry, taken very seriously. For example, USA Today reports that, after the crash of a Colgan Air flight in 2009 was partially attributed to pilot fatigue, numerous rule changes came into place in the US in 2014. One of these mandated 10 hours of rest between shifts, with eight hours of this time comprising uninterrupted sleep.

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2014 also saw it become mandatory for pilots to have at least 30 consecutive hours of rest per week, a 25% increase compared to before the change. Over in Europe, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is similarly strict on matters of crew rest. Despite this, Váradi has urged the flight crew to put their fatigue to one side, according to The Independent, stating in a recent internal video:

“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. We cannot run this business when every fifth person of a base reports sickness because the person is fatigued.”

In a startling turn of events, Wizz Air’s CEO has called out flight crew for reporting fatigue. Photo: Airbus

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Reporting fatigue is a responsible action that ensures that flight crews don’t operate flights if they’re not fit to do so. In a sense, the procedure is similar to calling in sick to prevent transmitting illness to passengers and crew, something that has become increasingly important in recent years amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, Váradi has taken a rather different approach, stating that:

“We are all fatigued. But sometimes it is required to go the extra mile. The damage is huge when we cancel a flight. It’s reputational damage to the brand, and it is [also] financial, transactional damage, because we have to pay compensation for that.”

The Wizz Air CEO’s comments seem to imply a prioritization of profits over safety. While the airline’s losses have recently increased despite a recovery in terms of passenger numbers, to show such disregard for well-meaning safety procedures for the sake of saving money is not necessarily what employees will want to hear from their boss. Simple Flying has contacted Wizz Air for comment.

Wizz Air is finding fatigue to be more of an issue as it ramps up its schedules. Photo: Airbus

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understandable criticism

What reaction Varadi was expecting his comments to get is unclear; needless to say, they haven’t gone down well. For example, the European Cockpit Association, a key union for thousands of pilots in the region, took to Twitter to state that encouraging fatigued pilots to fly is “like handing the car keys to a drunk driver.”

Meanwhile, Daniel Liebhart from Austrian transport union Vida, tweeted that “It’s an absolute no-go that crews at [Wizz] are encouraged to fly fatigued. [Wizz’s] staff are dedicated to their job, and passengers’ safety; they deserve more respect [from] their CEO! I encourage EASA to have a closer look at the practices envisaged by the CEO of Wizz Air.” It will certainly be interesting to see what happens next.

What do you make of Varadi’s comments? Have you flown with Wizz Air during the pandemic? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Sources: The Independent, USA Today

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