Regulators investigate Wizz Air after comments about pilot fatigue

Regulators investigate Wizz Air after comments about pilot fatigue

Regulators investigate Wizz Air after comments about pilot fatigue

  • The European aviation safety regulator is investigating Wizz Air, whose CEO seemed to dismiss fatigue.
  • A pilots’ union called for action after Jozsef Varadi urged staff to go “the extra mile”.
  • The safety regulator told Insider that the investigation will determine whether further action is needed.

Aviation safety regulators are investigating allegations by a pilots’ union against an airline after its CEO appeared to tell pilots to ignore fatigue to protect her reputation amid cancellations and labor shortages.

Jozsef Varadi, the boss of Wizz Air, Europe’s third-largest budget airline, sparked anger among pilot unions this week over comments he made in a briefing with all the airline’s employees, Insider reported.

Speaking about the impact of the current challenges in the sector, he said: “We are all tired, but sometimes it is necessary to go the extra mile.”

Varadi also said the flight cancellations caused huge financial and reputational damage to the airline.

Wizz insists his comments were taken out of context and not aimed specifically at pilots.

On Thursday, the European Cockpits Association, which represents 40,000 pilots in 33 European countries, wrote to the European safety regulator over concerns that Wizz Air’s “flawed corporate culture” is affecting passenger flight safety, the Financial Times first reported.

The letter was later confirmed to Insider by the association and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, which is responsible for overseeing airline safety regulations in Europe.

An agency spokesperson told Insider: “EASA recognizes that fatigue can be a serious safety risk and needs to be identified and properly addressed. We are currently investigating the allegations to determine if and what further ad hoc surveillance measures are needed.”

Wizz did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the investigation. A spokesperson previously told Insider that the airline has a “robust and responsible crew management system”.

In its letter, the European Cockpits Association said that Váradi’s comment “reinforces” shared concerns about the Wizz culture, which puts intolerable pressure on crews to fly on their days off, to extend flight times among “commanders” discretion’ and to refrain from reporting weary.”

In its 2021 annual report, the association said it had set up a “Wizz Air task force” to scrutinize the airline’s practices as the airline continues to expand across Europe.

The Hungarian airline was founded in 2003 by Váradi and now has 5,500 employees operating about 1,000 routes, mainly in Europe.

Earlier this week, Váradi said a shortage of crew at airports was the reason for a spate of cancellations and delays, not a lack of flight crews.