Wizz Air boss tells pilots to stop complaining about being tired: ‘we’re all fatigued’

‘It’s like handing the car keys to a drunk driver’: pilots’ unions condemn remarks made in an internal video

<p>Long haul: the new Airbus A321neo being flown by Wizz Air</p>

Long haul: the new Airbus A321neo being flown by Wizz Air

Pilots’ unions have reacted furiously after the boss of a giant budget airline has told flight crew that too many of them are reporting fatigue.

József Váradi, chief executive of Wizz Air, said in an internal video message: “Now that everyone is getting back into work, 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.

“We are all fatigued. But sometimes it is required to go the extra mile.

“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 for that.”

The European Cockpit Association, representing 40,000 pilots, tweeted: “Deficient safety culture alert! @WizzAir CEO encourages pilots to fly fatigued!

“It’s like handing the car keys to a drunk driver.”

The Twitter message called for the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) to step in.

Martin Chalk, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa), said: “I would urge Mr Váradi to swiftly clarify that Wizz Air would fully support any pilot who does the right thing by not flying if they feel fatigued, for the safety of their passengers, crew and aircraft.

“I urge him to be as professional as his pilots in seeking to eradicate fatigue from the flight deck.”

One senior UK aviation figure told The Independent: “I’m shocked. Never seen anything like this.”

A spokesperson for Wizz Air said: “This clip has been edited from an all-staff briefing on key business updates and current challenges facing aviation. Supply chain issues are affecting all airlines, in particular staff availability and welfare.

“Our crew unavailability has been very low, at 4 per cent. In this context, going the extra mile to minimise disruption was discussed.

“What this does not mean is compromising safety. Wizz Air and the airline industry are highly regulated, and safety is, and always will be, our first priority. We have a robust and responsible crew management system that meets the needs of our people and enables us to serve as many customers as possible in the current challenging environment.”

The UK Air Navigation Order, as interpreted by the Civil Aviation Authority, says: “A crew member shall not fly, and an operator shall not require him to fly, if either has reason to believe that he is suffering, or is likely to suffer while flying, from such fatigue as may endanger the safety of the aircraft or of its occupants.”

Wizz Air, based in Budapest, operates many flights to and from the UK, primarily serving eastern Europe, but with an increasing number of Mediterranean destinations. Its main British hub is Luton airport.

Like its two larger rivals, easyJet and Ryanair, Wizz Air has never had a fatal accident.

A spokesperson for the UK Civil Aviation Authority said: “Managing crew fatigue is vital to maintaining those high safety standards and is an issue the industry takes very seriously.

“All airlines must adhere to these regulations when scheduling crew duty periods. In addition, airlines are required to actively demonstrate how they manage crew fatigue.”

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