An airline CEO who suggested pilots should fly while fatigued to help ease the labor shortage has been accused by a union of endangering passenger safety

A Wizz Air plane
Wizz Air CEO József Váradi appeared to suggest that airline staff should "take the extra mile" despite feeling fatigued.picture alliance / Contributor / Getty
  • An airline CEO has been criticised for appearing to suggest pilots should fly while fatigued.

  • József Váradi of Wizz Air said fatigued staff should "take the extra mile" to help stabilize rosters.

  • The European Cockpit Association, which represents pilots has written to regulators, per the FT.

An airline boss, whose comments suggested that pilots should go the extra mile even if they are feeling fatigued, has been accused by a pilot's union of endangering passenger safety.

The European Cockpit Association (ECA), which represents 40 pilots across 33 countries, is one of several bodies to publicly criticize Wizz Air CEO József Váradi for seemingly suggesting that airline staff must lower their fatigue levels to cope with labor shortages, flight cancellations, and disruptions.


On Wednesday, the union tweeted a 44-second clip, taken from a briefing by Váradi to Wizz Air staff.

"I understand that fatigue is a potential outcome of the issues, but once we are starting to stabilize the rosters, we also need to take down the fatigue rate," Váradi said. "I mean, we cannot run this business when every fifth person of a base reports sickness because the person is fatigued."

He continued: "We are all fatigued, but sometimes it is required to take the extra mile." Canceling flights was causing huge financial and reputational damage to the airline, he added.

In the tweet, headed with the quote "Deficient safety culture alert!," the union said it was akin to giving keys to a drunk driver.

The ECA has now written to European safety regulators expressing concerns, according to The Financial Times, and later confirmed by the association.

In the letter, seen by the FT, the union said: "This reinforces our previously shared concerns about Wizz Air's deficient corporate culture, where inadmissible pressure is exerted on crew to fly on their days off, to extend flight times under 'commanders' discretion' and to refrain from reporting fatigued. Such corporate behaviour is detrimental to passenger flight safety,"

An ECA spokesperson confirmed to Insider that on Thursday, it sent the letter to the executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). They have not received a response.

A spokesperson for Wizz Air told Insider the video clip was edited from an all-staff briefing to cabin crew and office employees, as well as pilots.

"Wizz Air and the airline industry are highly regulated, and safety has, and always will be, our first priority. We have a robust and responsible crew management system which meets the needs of our people and enables us to serve as many customers as possible in the current challenging environment," the spokesperson said.

They did not comment on the ECA's letter. The EASA did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment made outside of normal working hours.

Airlines have been struggling to cope with increased demand for travel, amid a shortage of air crew, baggage handlers, and airport management staff. That, coupled with rising fuel prices, surging cost of living, and the impact of the war in Ukraine on flight plans has led to thousands of flights globally.

Airlines have to carefully manage fatigue and can't simply tell pilots to "have another cup of coffee," John Strickland, an aviation consultant of JLS Consulting, told Insider. He was commenting generally on the "very clear" and "unmovable" regulations, regarding the maximum working hours pilots are allowed to work in a year.

Under EU regulations, set by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, pilots must not exceed 60 hours on duty in any seven-day period, nor 100 hours within any 28 consecutive days.

The process considers factors such as the time they start work as well as the impact of circadian rhythms (low points affecting all humans twice per day). If a pilot reports fatigue, airlines have to treat that with utmost seriousness from a safety perspective Strickland said.

Airlines have blamed the delays on staff shortages at airports

Wizz Air, which is Europe's third-largest low-cost carrier, has 5,500 staff. At 4%, the airline said its crew unavailability had been very low.

Earlier this week, Váradi suggested that a lack of staff at airport management and air traffic controllers were a primary reason for the swathe of flight cancellations, rather than a lack of pilots.

On Thursday, the German carrier Lufthansa canceled 900 flights scheduled for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in July — some 5% of its weekend capacity. The airline cited staff shortages as a reason, per Bloomberg.


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