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Wizz Air will operate its A320 family aircraft on new Abu Dhabi flights. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Aron Mester)

Leaked Wizz Air Meeting Highlights Company’s Apparent Pilot Redundancy Culture

An audio recording of an online meeting held in April 2020 has supposedly revealed how low-cost carrier Wizz Air decided to make certain pilots redundant, following its announcement to cut the workforce by up to 20% following the outbreak of the coronavirus last year.

In the meeting held online, a manager is heard saying, “We start off with the bad apples, so anyone who has caused you grief on a routine basis,” before suggesting “excessive sickness” or declining to work on days off are among the reasons pilots would be terminated. Days off for air crew are protected by aviation authorities as legally required days off for rest periods with pilots having the option to work on days off completely at their own discretion.

The European airline, which operates a low-cost service out of mainly eastern cities of Europe, ended up removing around 200 pilots while aggressively expanding its route network and hubs throughout the entirety of 2020.

The manager, identified as Darwin Triggs, has now stepped down from his role as Wizz Air’s Head of Flight Operations. The airline has informed employees that a subsequent independent investigation has found that there was no indication it had acted unlawfully but “some factors may have been taken into account that was inconsistent with Wizz Air’s culture of open and honest communication and its focus on employee opportunity.”

In a further exposure of how airlines take advantage of self-employed pilot contractors, Triggs was heard saying that pilots outsourced from a Dutch agency should not be made redundant because “they’re easy to manage because we can let them go at any time. They only have 24 days of [leave], and they’re incredibly cheap,” before adding, “Sharpen your pencils and let’s see what you can come up with.”

The transcript document seen by AirlineGeeks started off by highlighting, “Wizz Air laid off 20% of its workforce in April 2020. This is a secret meeting between the Base Captains instructing them how to choose those employees. Wizz Air is being sued in multiple countries for illegal dismissals, the majority of them are winning.”

In highlighting the airline’s thinking, Triggs said, “Worst case scenario is that we have too many people, right? So we are trying to figure out ways of running around this. The easy solution for us is to, we have about 150 pilots that are either been recruited and haven’t joined us, or have just started training, or someplace in the training program. What’s probably going to happen to them is we will stop their training, and just put them to the side of the system.”

In damaging remarks for the airline, he went further and said, “So if I have 150 that are in training, that means I have to find another 100, in the network, that we may have to remove, alright. I’m thinking if we start off with the bad apples. So anyone that has caused you grief on a routine basis, whether its excessive sickness, not doing their ground school, poor performance.”

Then moving onto captains specifically, Mr. Triggs said, “Weak captains that you always think, you know what, that person should not be in that seat [captain’s chair].”

Following the leak of the meeting, it has been rumored that all base captains, managerial positions held by pilots to look after the local hub, have been fired, apart from those in the UK. Also, the regional flight operations managers, who reported directly to the head of flight operations, have all been let go in an obvious retaliation by the airline.

Triggs himself held his former position since June 2018 after spending four months as Wizz Air’s chief pilot, according to his LinkedIn. Prior to his time at Wizz, the Canadian flew for Emirates and Air Canada, as well as the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Although the airline had made pilots redundant only 12 months ago, it had also begun to recruit pilots, both internally and externally. From within the company, recruiters set up a scheme to train cabin crew to become pilots, called the “Cabin Crew to Captain” program. Externally, the airline’s recruitment website has been open since last summer to recruit experienced and non-experienced captains and first officers. The airline has hosted a number of recruitment assessments throughout the winter period in anticipation of the recommencement of flying later this year.

In a statement to Simple Flying, a spokesperson for Wizz said, “As the COVID-19 pandemic hit Europe in March 2020, Wizz Air was transparent in acknowledging the need for a reduction in staff that included the redundancy of 19% of its workforce across office and crews. At that time it’s clear that some language was used on an internal call that did not reflect the process being undertaken nor the values of the business and that is a matter of regret at Wizz Air.”

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