Wizz Air CEO asks employees to beat fatigue

(CNN) – As chaos spread across the airline industry this summer, an airline CEO came up with a new way to cut flight cancellations: asking employees to take less time off.

Joseph Faraday, chief executive of European low-cost carrier Wizz Air, told employees at a meeting this week that many were taking time off due to fatigue, and that “sometimes an extra effort is needed”.

Pilot fatigue is taken very seriously in the industry, with the Flight Safety Foundation describing it as an “internationally recognized issue relating to the broader issue of fit-to-duty”. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has a 148-page report on dealing with crew fatigue, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) produces awareness videos for the industry.

Fatigue was also one of the factors blamed for the crash of American Airlines Flight 1420, which killed 11 in 1999.

The note – made on a private call to all Wizz Air employees in all areas of the company – was recorded and subscriber On social media by the European Cockpit Association, which called it a “flawed safety culture alert”.

In the clip, Vardy says, “Now that everyone is back at work, I realize fatigue is a potential consequence of the issues. But once we start pinning the rolls, we also need to reduce the rate of fatigue.

“We can’t run this business when every fifth person on base reports sickness due to exhaustion.

“We are all tired. But sometimes it’s necessary to put in the extra effort.

“The damage is great when we cancel a trip. It’s damage to the brand’s reputation and it’s the other financial damage, the transaction damage because we have to pay compensation for that.”

A Wizz Air spokesperson said the suspension is for all airline workers, not pilots specifically.

“This clip has been edited to brief all staff (not only pilots, but also cabin crew and all office staff) on key business updates and current challenges facing aviation,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Supply chain issues affect all airlines, particularly staff availability and wellbeing.

“The unavailability of our crew was very low, at 4%. In this context, it was discussed that an extra effort should be made to reduce disruption. What this does not mean is that safety is compromised.

“Wizz Air and the airline industry are highly regulated, and safety is our number one priority and always will be. We have a robust and responsible crew management system that meets the needs of our employees and enables us to serve as many customers as possible in the current challenging environment.”

All it takes is one mistake

But Aedrian Bekker, a clinical and aviation psychologist and director of the UK’s Center for Aviation Psychology, told CNN that the fact that Váradi did not specifically address pilots doesn’t make it any better, describing the lack of staff as an “indicator of morale”.

“If an organization has a problem with increasing employee sickness, the causes are often a consequence of the organization,” he said. “Requesting pilots to ‘suck it up’ goes against all the greatness of reasonable safety management over the past 20 years.”

“Many pilots who work for large airlines often feel they are treated like commodities, operating within the legal limits of capacity and then discarded when they are no longer needed.”

He added that pilots are not the only ones who, when tired, may make a mistake that could lead to a disastrous chain of events.

“We know that all parts of aviation are under extreme stress right now, and these people are working with incredible levels of stress,” he said.

“If the check-in agent is stressful, can they start a chain of events that is hard to prevent? All it takes is one person to make a mistake and not think about the implications—someone not to screw in again, or screw up Right.

We can all relate [those kinds of lapses] But in what industry is critical to safety, to tell people to suck it up and work harder? Common sense dictates that this isn’t smart—especially for a CEO who has paid big sums to motivate and energize her.

“If you were to undergo a medical procedure, how safe would you feel knowing that the person doing it had been fatigued, even if they were working in a great background, using technology – would you feel comfortable under the knife? Despite levels of automation, staff still He makes very important safety decisions — especially if there are problems, such as storms or severe delays.”

The leaked video was met with horror from the aviation community on social media. one pilot chirp: “This is one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever heard an airline CEO say. It speaks to a fundamental lack of understanding of fatigue and its effects on flight.”
Stephen Ehrlich, chairman of PilotsTogether, a charity that supports British pilots who have lost their jobs in the pandemic, told CNN: “Requiring pilots to fly while fatigued is a dangerous and inappropriate precedent that puts unnecessary risks to passengers, pilots and the public on the ground.

“We encourage motorists to pull over to the side of the road or into their comfort zone if they are fatigued and in this profession there is no difference: safety is paramount. There is no room for compromise.

“Any airline that operates quickly and luxuriously with this rule will end up losing the confidence of its passengers, pilots and the public. Fatigue leads to a potential loss of attention, and allows mistakes and awareness to be changed.

“Pilots are under more pressure these days due to the impact of Covid layoffs, the need for rehabilitation and reskilling, and the airline’s operational stresses in the news right now.”

Balba Pilots Syndicate chirp: “We are shocked that the CEO of an airline may advise against actions against a basic safety culture. BALPA urges Mr. Faraday to quickly make it clear that Wizz Air will fully support any pilot who does the right thing by not flying if they are feeling overwhelmed, for the safety of passengers and crew. Crew and aircraft.
Last week, the Air New Zealand Pilots’ Association deemed pilot fatigue a risk, telling the local press: “Fatigue can be as dangerous as drug and alcohol abuse and can lead to errors with fatal consequences.”

Headquartered in Hungary, Wizz Air is one of the fastest growing budget airlines in Europe. It also prides itself on having the continent’s least environmentally damaging fleet.

Main image: Artur Widak / NurPhoto via AP

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