- Europe’s 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 the investigation will determine if further action is necessary.
Aviation safety regulators are investigating allegations brought by a pilots’ union against an airline after its CEO appeared to tell pilots to ignore fatigue to help it protect its reputation amid cancellations and labor shortages.
Jozsef Varadi, the boss of Wizz Air, Europe’s third-largest budget carrier, sparked fury from pilots’ unions this week for comments he made in an all-hands briefing with airline employees, Insider reported.
Talking about the impact of current industry challenges, he said: “We are all fatigued, but sometimes it is required to take the extra mile.”
Varadi also said that canceling flights was causing huge financial and reputational damage to the airline.
Wizz maintains his comments were taken out of context, and were not addressed specifically to 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 “deficient corporate culture” was 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.
A spokesperson for the agency told Insider: “EASA recognises that fatigue can be a serious safety hazard and needs to be identified and properly mitigated. We are currently investigating the allegations to determine whether and what further ad-hoc oversight actions are necessary.”
Wizz did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment about 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 Váradi’s comment “reinforces” shared concerns about the Wizz 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.”
In its 2021 annual report the association said it had established a “Wizz Air task force” to put the airline’s practices under scrutiny as the airline continues to expand across Europe.
The Hungarian airline was founded by Váradi in 2003 and now has 5,500 staff operating about 1,000 routes, mostly in Europe.
Earlier this week Váradi said that a shortage of crew at airports was a reason behind a spate of cancelations and delays, not a lack of flight crew.