CEO of Wizz Air faces backlash after he told pilots to work through their fatigue

Radhika Bansal

13 Jun 2022

The CEO of Wizz Air has drawn the ire of pilot unions after suggesting that too many crew members were refusing to fly because of fatigue.

According to The Guardian, Wizz Air CEO Jozsef Varadi told staff in an internal briefing that too many employees were taking time off due to fatigue at a time when the aviation industry is facing a staff crunch that has led to disrupted flight schedules.

“We are all fatigued but sometimes it is required to take the extra mile. I understand that fatigue is a potential outcome of the issues, but once we are starting stabilising the rosters, we also need to take down the fatigue rate.I mean, we cannot run this business when every fifth person of a base reports sickness because the person is fatigued."Jozsef Varadi, CEO, Wizz Air

Pilot fatigue is taken seriously in the aviation industry as it can lead to accidents and affect flight safety. Given that pilots often work long and unpredictable hours, the International Air Transport Association has a 148-page report on handling crew fatigue, as do other regulators like FAA.

Varadi, however, pointed to the “reputational damage” that comes with cancelling flights. "The damage is huge when we are cancelling a flight. It's reputational damage of the brand and it is the other financial damage, the transactional damage because we have to pay compensation for that,” he told staff members in the briefing that has drawn backlash.

CEO of Wizz Air faces backlash after he told pilots to work through their fatigue

The European Cockpit Association shared the remarks, which were made over a private call, in a video on Twitter. “Wizz Air CEO encourages pilots to fly fatigued! It’s like handing the car keys to a drunk driver,” the Association wrote as it asked the European Union Aviation Safety Agency to “step in”.

Rules state that air crew should not fly, and should not be required to fly if they are in a state of fatigue which could endanger passengers or the aircraft.

A spokesperson for Wizz Air said the CEO’s remarks were taken out of context and were meant for the whole crew, not pilots specifically.

"This clip has been edited from a briefing to all staff (not pilots only, but also cabin crew and all office employees) on key business updates and current challenges facing aviation. Supply chain issues are affecting all airlines, in particular staff availability and welfare.Our crew unavailability has been very low, at 4%. In this context, going the extra mile to minimize disruption was discussed. What this does not mean is compromising safety."Spokesperson, Wizz Air

The explanation has done little to placate pilot unions and other experts. Martin Chalk, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots' Association, told BBC he was “very surprised by the apparent views of Mr Varadi on fatigue” as "fatigue has been shown, in many studies, to have effects on a person's thinking and decision making similar to alcohol".

Aedrian Bekker, a clinical and aviation psychologist, also told CNN that the fact that Varadi was not referring to pilots specifically did not make his remarks any better.

"If a check-in agent is fatigued, could it start a chain of events that would be hard to prevent? All it takes is one person to make a mistake and not think of the implications -- for someone not to put a screw back on, or do up a bolt properly."We can all relate to [those kinds of lapses] but in any safety-critical industry, to tell people to suck it up and work harder? Common sense dictates that that's not clever -- especially not for a CEO who's paid big bucks to motivate and energize."Aedrian Bekker, Clinical and Aviation Psychologist

Established in May 2004, Wizz Air is an ultra-low-cost carrier headquartered at Budapest Airport. Wizz Air predominantly uses secondary airports and is continuously looking at opportunities to expand its network of destinations and provide low-cost air transport to and from Central and Eastern Europe.

Founded by Váradi in 2003 after his time as CEO at the now-defunct Hungarian state-owned airline Malev, Wizz Air aimed to be an even more affordable version of Ryanair: an “ultra-low-cost” carrier.

Wizz Air is an ultra-low-cost carrier headquartered at Budapest Airport.

Váradi himself doesn’t operate on a shoestring budget: He’s set to receive a USD 124 million bonus should he double the company’s market cap in five years. 

Reportedly one of the biggest bonuses ever offered to the CEO of a U.K.-listed company, a full third of Wizz Air shareholders followed the recommendation of proxy advisers Glass Lewis and ISS in voting against what was deemed an excessive bonus.

Pilot Fatigue and Flight Safety

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) defines fatigue as "A physiological state of reduced mental or physical performance capability resulting from sleep loss or extended wakefulness, circadian phase, or workload."

Rules state that air crew should not fly, and should not be required to fly if they are in a state of fatigue which could endanger passengers or the aircraft.

The phenomenon places a great risk on the crew and passengers of an airplane because it significantly increases the chance of pilot error. Fatigue is particularly prevalent among pilots because of "unpredictable work hours, long duty periods, circadian disruption, and insufficient sleep".

ALSO READ - What is Circadian Rhythm and how does it impact pilots?

These factors can occur together to produce a combination of sleep deprivation, circadian rhythm effects, and 'time-on task' fatigue. Regulators attempt to mitigate fatigue by limiting the number of hours pilots are allowed to fly over varying periods.

It has been estimated that 4-7% of civil aviation incidents and accidents can be attributed to fatigued pilots. "In the last 16 years, fatigue has been associated with 250 fatalities in air carrier accidents." Robert Sumwalt, NTSB vice chairman, said at an FAA symposium in July 2016.

The magnitude of these effects is correlated to the circadian rhythm and length of time awake.

Symptoms associated with fatigue include slower reaction times, difficulty concentrating on tasks resulting in procedural mistakes, lapses in attention, inability to anticipate events, higher toleration for risk, forgetfulness, and reduced decision-making ability.

The magnitude of these effects is correlated to the circadian rhythm and length of time awake. Performance is affected the most when there is a combination of extended wakefulness and circadian influences.

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Ariana Afghan Airlines will soon resume flight operations to India

Radhika Bansal

12 Jun 2022

Afghanistan's flag carrier, Ariana Afghan Airlines, announced that it will soon resume flights to India, China and Kuwait.

"Flights will soon start to India, where there are a lot of goods and a number of our passengers are there for treatment. Our flights to India, China and Kuwait will soon start," TOLO News quoted airline chief Rahmatullah Agha as saying.

The airline currently flies twice a week to Doha and it remains unclear how much a ticket for the three new routes will cost.

Ariana Afghan Airlines will soon resume flight operations to India

As India is one of the largest markets for Afghan agricultural and horticultural products, the Afghanistan Chamber of Agriculture and Livestock (ACAL) says that with the start of flights between Kabul and Delhi, the country's exports will increase.

Amir Khan Muttaqi, acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, is also optimistic about the growth of the economy and the development of the country's transit. "Afghanistan is now becoming a transit and economic centre, hundreds of vehicles pass through Afghanistan daily in transit," he said.

"India's market is a good opportunity for our agriculture sector, now here in Afghanistan it is the season of grapes, pomegranates, apricots, saffron, medicinal plants, we hope that our exports will increase to other countries through air corridors."Mirwais Hajizada, Member, Afghanistan Chamber of Agriculture and Livestock (ACAL)

ALSO READ - Taliban requests the resumption of commercial flights from Afghanistan to India

After the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021, the flag carrier resumed domestic flights the following month.

ALSO READ - Taliban prohibits women from flying without a male relative

The airline currently flies twice a week to Doha and it remains unclear how much a ticket for the three new routes will cost.

Meanwhile, NBC News reported that the United States, in cooperation with the Qatari government, is indirectly paying Ariana Afghan Airlines to evacuate Afghan refugees from Kabul.

But the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (MoTCA) said that any passenger with a legal document can travel abroad, reported Tolo News.

“Flights happen based on timetables, anyone who has travel documents like a visa, passport and ticket can travel, if they are foreigners or Afghans, they can travel,” said Imamuddin Ahmadi, spokesman for the Ministry of Transport. 

After the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021, the flag carrier resumed domestic flights the following month.

Ariana Afghan Airlines is the national carrier of Afghanistan. Founded in 1955, the airline was soon thereafter established as a joint venture between the Afghan Government and Pan American World Airways.

Today, it is wholly owned by the Afghan Government and has suffered heavily in recent years, with the majority of its aircraft destroyed as a result of the conflict in the region.

It operates services to several domestic destinations as well as international destinations in Europe, the CIS, the Middle East, China and India.

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A bird for a bird? Say hello to "Robird" that defends airports against bird strikes


11 Jun 2022

Collisions between wildlife and aircraft are a common occurrence-one that causes billions of dollars in aircraft damage every year whilst also placing countless human lives at risk.

So what are the international airports at Edmonton and Grand Forks is North Dakota doing about it?

It looks like a bird. Flies like a plane. Or let's just say it's a bird that's a plane - the "Robird"- a robotic bird that closely resembles a Peregrine falcon in this case, looks so strikingly real to its real-life counterpart, but it's not.


Robirds are basically robotic birds that closely resemble natural birds, both in appearance and in-flight behaviour-they fly by beating their wings, can soar, and have speed and wing frequencies similar to a real bird.

The Peregrine "Robird" here, soars near the runway at Edmonton and Grand Forks to deter birds from interfering with air traffic.

Featuring wings that flap, it flies as swiftly as a falcon and can clock speeds up to 27 miles per hour.

Bird strikes are dictated by the seasonal changes in migratory patterns and the risk of bird strikes increases as more airplanes take to the skies.

This novel drone-a ornithopter, that mimics the look and actions of the predatory bird, is produced by Aerium Analytics, a multi-disciplined drone solutions company based in Calgary, Alberta.

Since its inception in 2016, and what began as using drones for forestry, energy, mining and logistics, the company is now focussing on harnessing the power of aerial data for environmental good.

It’s all about the data. Drones can collect vast sums of high quality geospatial data in a fraction of the time it would take to do it manuallySays Aerium CEO Jordan Cicoria

Jordan Cicoria | Unmanned Systems Canada

After having expanded its fleet of drones, the company has now developed artificial intelligence-powered detection and analysis software and a simplified visualization portal. The collected data is taken and rapidly translated into useful visual information for decision-makers in highly regulated industries such as airports and mining.

Aerium’s use cases at airports include real-time detection of foreign object debris (FOD), runway markings inspections and perimeter security.

According to Cicoria, conventional methods of bird deterrents, such as pyrotechnics, air cannons and loudspeakers had minimal effect and had negative environmental impacts as well.

Facts and figures show that RoBird’s impacts have been significant.

Up to an 80% reduction in bird strikes over a year has been reported by Aerium's partner airports.

RoBird works because the Peregrine falcon is one of the most feared aerial predators in the world. It is known on six of the seven continents. Nearly every flocking bird species has been predated on by PeregrinesCicoria said

Apparently, Aerium's pilots fly them manually around the world in places ranging from high visibility airports in the U.S. and Canada to blueberry farms in the Netherlands and dredging operations in Kazakhstan.

The company eventually plans to have full autonomous flocks-in-a-box, with onboard detect-and-avoid and integrated wildlife detection sensors.

RoBird is a perfect example of the evolution of drone technology which looks at what nature does incredibly well and finds ways to replicate. The integration of drones in our daily lives will occur when they make work and life safer and benefit the world. RoBird does just thatCicoria

He likes to think of it as a perfect bird-strike mitigation and wildlife management tool and refers to it as a “sheepdog in the sky.”


COVER: TechCrunch

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AAI to get navigation radio equipment for 24 airports from a Russian firm

Radhika Bansal

11 Jun 2022

Russia’s Scientific and Production Corporation “Radio technical Systems” (NPO “RTS”) signed a large-scale contract with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for the supply of radio equipment.

The Russian company will manufacture 34 sets of instrument landing system ILS 734 for the modernization of 24 airports in the country.

The domestic manufacturer received the right to conclude a contract based on the results of a global tender, in which, in addition to NPO “RTS”, the world's largest suppliers of radio equipment took part, according to an official statement.

AAI to get navigation radio equipment for 24 airports from a Russian firm

The increased interest of leading manufacturers in the competition is due to the scale of the project: this lot for the purchase of landing systems has become the largest in the world over the past few years.

According to the contract, the first part of landing systems ILS 734 is scheduled to be shipped before November of this year. Payments for the transaction will be carried out in national currencies.

“The contract between NPO “RTS” and AAI has become a breakthrough for Russian business in the highly competitive market of ground-based radio equipment in India. There is no doubt that the successful execution of the contract will open up new opportunities for the implementation of joint projects to modernize Indian airport infrastructure."Denis Alipov, Ambassador of Russia to India

The system allows for the landing of equipped aircraft with a runway visual range of a minimum of 50 meters and a decision height of a minimum of 15 meters. The landing system is subject to increased requirements for the reliability and stability of the output parameters of the equipment.

Scientific and Production Corporation “Radio technical Systems” (NPO “RTS”) was established in May 2003 by a group of developers of landing, navigation and air traffic control systems equipment.

“NPO “RTS” has established itself as a reliable partner, having implemented dozens of projects for the supply of ground-based radio equipment both in Russia and abroad.Customers highly appreciate capabilities of our products, including the instrumental landing system ILS 734, which meets the strictest international requirements and standards, high efficiency in the fulfilment of contractual obligations, high-quality warranty and after-sales service.”Aleksandr Dolmatov, CEO, NPO “RTS”

Today, the enterprise fulfils orders of the Federal Air Transport Agency, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, the Aviation Base of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation and Roscosmos enterprises. NPO “RTS” cooperates with many airports in Russia and CIS countries.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) manages 137 airports, including 24 international airports. AAI also provides air traffic control services throughout the airspace of India and adjacent ocean areas.

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Air India Express plans massive international expansion in the next 5 years

Radhika Bansal

11 Jun 2022

Air India Express is eying more international connections from second and third-tier cities in India as part of a “huge” expansion plan over the next five years.

Chief of Commercial Tara Naidu said the LCC intends to rapidly grow its network under new owner Tata Group, maintaining its strategy of offering inter-regional routes within a six-hour stage length.

Speaking at Routes Asia 2022 in Da Nang, Vietnam, Naidu outlined 30 countries that are being explored by Air India Express, including Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam.

Air India Express plans massive international expansion in the next 5 years

“There are some markets where there is no direct connectivity, which is strange because they are huge markets,” she said. “We believe it’s going to be a win-win for us—it will stimulate tourism growth in both directions and ease business connectivity.”

Air India Express currently serves 19 destinations in India and 14 international points, with aircraft bases at Cochin (COK), Delhi (DEL), Kozhikode (CCJ), Mangalore (IXE), Mumbai (BOM), Thiruvananthapuram (TVR) and Tiruchchirappalli (TRZ).

Unlike its parent Air India, which operates a hub-and-spoke network, Air India Express flies high-density point-to-point routes, targeting markets with large flows of migrant workers, as well as VFR and leisure traffic. Dubai, Sharjah and Muscat are among its largest international destinations by capacity.

Air India Express flies high-density point-to-point routes from Indian cities to places like Dubai, Sharjah, and Muscat

Naidu said Air India Express hopes to add more aircraft shortly to its current fleet of 24 Boeing 737-800s. She added that it also wants to implement new interline and codeshare agreements with other carriers.

“This will give us additional market reach and access to market segments we wouldn’t have otherwise,” Naidu explained.

Tata completed the acquisition of the Air India group from India’s government in January and in April began the process of consolidating Air India with domestic carrier AirAsia India. 

Air India Express hopes to add more aircraft shortly to its current fleet of 24 Boeing 737-800s

Air India Express is a wholly-owned low-cost subsidiary of Air India. The carrier, which was established in 2004, operates a network that covers domestic destinations in India as well as international destinations in Asia and the Middle East.

ALSO READ - Air India intends to purchase a 100% stake in AirAsia India; Tatas to relocate all 4 airlines to Gurgaon

In April, Air India sought approval from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to acquire the Bengaluru-based AirAsia India, in which the Tatas have a majority stake at 83.67%.

While there have been no formal announcements, the merger – if and when that happens – is speculated to support Air India Express in furthering its future ambitions for regional expansion.

(With Inputs from Routesonline)

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IndiGo officially launches codeshare agreement with American Airlines

Radhika Bansal

10 Jun 2022

American Airlines and IndiGo have launched a codeshare agreement that allows the former to sell seats on the latter's flights operating on Delhi-Bengaluru and Delhi-Mumbai routes, a statement said on Thursday, June 9.

ALSO READ - Codeshare agreement signed between IndiGo and American Airlines

"American and IndiGo plan to expand the codeshare shortly to include more than a dozen additional destinations in India (in addition to Bengaluru and Mumbai)," it said.

IndiGo officially launches codeshare agreement with American Airlines

American Airlines currently operates flights on the New York-Delhi route only. American Airlines and IndiGo had in September 2021 announced that they are entering into a codeshare agreement.

The agreement will place American’s code on 29 of IndiGo’s domestic routes in India, providing a convenient option for American Airlines customers arriving on the carrier’s new Bengaluru (BLR) and Delhi (DEL), India, flights.

"IndiGo is a premier Indian carrier and through our codeshare agreement, customers can book travel on IndiGo via Delhi to and from two of India's most popular destinations, Bangalore and Mumbai."Anmol Bhargava, Vice President of Global Alliances and Partnerships, American Airlines

The codeshare, which will require U.S. and Indian governments’ approvals, is expected to begin in October, as American Airlines launches a new service between New York (JFK) and DEL on October 31 and between Seattle (SEA) and BLR on January 4, 2022.

“We’re eager to add IndiGo as our trusted partner in India. Whether our customers are traveling for business or pleasure, this new partnership makes it easy to reach all four corners of India. Today we’re adding 29 new routes to our map as a result of this agreement, providing customers with even more options around the globe."Vasu Raja, Chief Revenue Officer, American Airlines

As the codeshare agreement begins, members of American’s AAdvantage® loyalty program will earn miles when traveling on American codeshare flights operated by IndiGo.

Customers who aren’t yet members of the award-winning AAdvantage program can enroll online and enjoy immediate benefits such as Group 6 boarding on flights operated by American.

IndiGo already has codeshare agreements with Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Air France-KLM airlines.

Customers traveling in American’s Flagship® Business cabin on DEL–JFK or BLR–SEA will have access to IndiGo partner lounges in their originating city where they can relax, unwind and enjoy hot food, beverages, Wi-Fi and more.

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IndiGo, India's largest airline, already has codeshare agreements with Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Air France-KLM airlines.

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