Low-cost carrier Wizz Air (including Wizz Air UK) recently hit the headlines after reporting losses of €285 million but for passengers and staff, the woes lie deeper within the airline, particularly when it comes to its responsibilities towards passengers when flights are cancelled or delayed.
One thing we can be sure of is airlines hate cancellations, it’s bad for business and costs money. There are obligations and compensation that are set out in law that all UK and European airlines must adhere to. Most airlines “suck it up” in their business model as these things are inevitable but increasingly, we get told of airlines misleading passengers and not fulfilling their obligations under those laws, particularly low-cost carriers and most recently, particularly Wizz Air.
Just last month we reported how we were contacted by several passengers who were literally left stranded in Rhodes and had to find their own flights home and accommodation until departure after their Wizz Air flight was cancelled.
What should have happened is Wizz Air should have provided alternative flights, even with another airline, at their expense and provided accommodation until departure for their passengers for whom they have a duty of care.
Another case we have been told about happened at Cardiff Airport where a flight was due to leave then went “tech” – had a technical issue – which saw passengers disembarked whilst the problem was rectified and the flight delayed for four hours. Once passengers boarded again, the flight was then cancelled and passengers were told to leave the airport, several passengers tried to find Wizz Air ground staff but they had all “disappeared”.
These are not isolated cases nor are they unique, we could probably have selected one of 50 examples told to us in the last few weeks alone and the problem all seems to stem from one thing. Wizz Air operates to such tight margins it has no capacity for problems with either crews or aircraft.
Go the extra mile
This then, is also perhaps why we repeatedly hear about flight crew being pressurised into working on rest days and feeling obliged to use the “captain’s discretion” to exceed daily flying hours.
The European Cockpit Association, which represents the majority of Wizz Air pilots recently slammed Wizz Air chief executive Jozsef Varadi after a video emerged of him telling pilots and crew “We are all fatigued, but sometimes it is required to take the extra mile.”
The ECA described asking pilots to fly tired as “like handing the car keys to a drunk driver,”
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) also announced it was looking into Wizz Air and whether it was pushing flight crew to ignore fatigue and in a statement said: “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.”
The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) also commented at the time with BALPA General Secretary Martin Chalk said:“We know that airlines have just had the worst two financial years on record, but safety must come first no matter what. An airline CEO’s priority is to safely operate flights that make the airline money. If you forget your safety obligations, you can forget the rest.
“No one wants fatigued pilots at the controls – the possible consequences are too devastating.
“That’s why BALPA is working with airlines to ensure the focus remains on safety and that the second to none safety culture that has been fostered over many years, is not eroded.
“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.”
But still, we hear from Wizz Air flight crews and cabin crew that they feel pressurised in to work extra hours to “help out” the company.
Wizz Air has repeatedly declined to comment on or deny any of the issues raised by their crew or passengers but this is to be called out as found as the UK has an exemplary safety record with aviation and the self-inflicted tight margins of budget airlines must not be allowed to compromise that.
What is your experience with Wizz Air, tell us below!