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A recent study among 100 Wizz Air pilots reveal that while the overall working environment is something to enjoy, fatigue management, employment status and social security coverages are important and raising concerns.

The survey, conducted by ECA in December 2015, aimed at getting a deeper insight into one of Europe’s fast-growing Low Cost Airlines, further to the extensive Ghent study on ‘Atypical Employment in Aviation’ - that pointed out that atypical employment set-ups risk becoming the norm among young pilots working for LCCs.

The survey was taken up by captains (57%) and first officers (43%) alike with half of the respondents working less than 5 years at the company. It is worth highlighting that about one third found the overall working environment satisfying and almost 60% gave an ‘excellent’ rating when it comes to reporting safety incidents freely without fear of disciplinary measures.  These are all good news!

Wizz Air Pilots Speak Up

The survey, however, also puts the spotlight on the issues where change is needed. And the list the pilots lined up is very clear: inadequate fatigue management, including insufficient rest periods, randomly changing reporting times etc.; social security coverage (e.g. ‘creative’ solutions), and the lack of a transparent seniority list.

Another key finding of the survey is the strong wish among pilots for a clear and secure contractual basis: 90% of the pilots would choose a permanent contract over a temporary one - or other forms of atypical employment setups. But only 65% of the respondents work under such a permanent contract. Thus, it comes as no surprise that 60% of Wizz Air pilots consider that trade unions and pilot organizations should be present at the company to engage in a structured dialogue with the management.  

Stable employment is NOT the standard

The survey echoed many of the findings of the broader EU-wide Ghent University study, which had revealed for example that 32% of Wizz Air pilots are being ‘self-employed’ or employed via ‘a company’ and that 15% are employed via a temporary agency. Hence, one of the clear messages from Wizz Air pilots is that direct and stable employment should be the standard form of employment, rather than precarious contracts.

Commercial pilots are safety professionals! Hence, atypical contractual business set-ups – widely used by certain transnational airlines – can pose an invisible but serious threat to aviation safety as they risk distorting decision-making in the cockpit where pilots’ safety decisions may be unduly influenced by economic considerations.

And this is just one of the many reasons why the dialogues around the (too often disregarded!) Social Agenda for Transport needs to continue; to address the current ‘ugly social reality’ in parts of the European transport industry.