Airline CEO Is Sick And Tired Of Pilots Prioritizing Safety

Here’s another lesson in ‘never fly a Bill Franke airline’. The CEO of Budapest-based Wizz Air doesn’t want pilots cancelling flights just because they’re too tired to fly, saying “we are all fatigued but sometimes it is required to take the extra mile.”

Too tired? Just fly anyway!

He’s right that delays and cancellations are costly, but flying while fatigued is the wrong answer. I’m not usually sympathetic to pilot unions, but Wizz Air needs to hire more pilots. He’s not in the U.S. market, either, and Europe doesn’t have the absurd barriers to becoming a pilot that the U.S. does.

At an airline you do not even speak words that sounds like anything would prioritize over safety. Ever. There’s a hundred-year rule not to ever talk about compromising safety, or to suggest that any airline is unsafe, because that could undermine confidence in the industry itself. Airlines once weren’t actually that safe, and now they’re the safest means of transportation based on fatalities per person per mile traveled.

During the regulated era in the United States the federal government took it as its role to ensure airfares were high and airlines made money out of concern that unprofitable airlines would cut corners on safety. That concern is outdated. Nearly all major U.S. airlines went through bankruptcy without compromising safety. They went through 9/11 and the Covid-19 pandemic without compromising safety. European airlines have similar safety track records.

New executives at Pan Am used to be onboarded by being shown a documentary on the Tenerife disaster. The culture of safety as paramount is drilled in from day one. Rhetoric by Wizz Air’s CEO is unhelpful.

If he wants to suggest that pilots are cloaking self-interested arguments in the guise of safety that may be true, but suggesting pilots should fly despite fatigue is ill-advised in the extreme.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Wizzair pays pilots very little and now complains they are fatigued. Shame on you CEO !,

  2. Check out this link. This dude’s little Canary, Darwin Triggs, actually terminated employment of pilots who ‘would not use discretion’. So, the CEO asks him to resign…because it became a big news…and a bit too much PR issue.
    Triggs managed to find his way to Central Washington University’s (Ellensburg, Washington) aviation program and became Executive Director, Flight & Mechanics Operations.
    Will this CEO become the next President of Central Washington University?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kqlh8pjwGrg
    Faculty and Staff | Central Washington University (cwu.edu)

  3. “ He’s not in the U.S. market, either, and Europe doesn’t have the absurd barriers to becoming a pilot that the U.S. does.”

    He very much is in the U.S. market, you neglect to mention that he is also the Chairman of Frontier and possibly the merged Spirit tie up. A very important wrinkle in this story as I doubt his true opinions on fatigue change depending on which operation he is governing at the given moment.

  4. Someone else that has a hard on about Franke. I left AWA because of him. Do you know he spent some of his pirate cash to put his name on the school of forestry at the U of Montana

  5. This is the guy for Frontier and Spirit possibly should they merge. Another reason to stay clear of low cost carriers. The big 3 are not perfect but I know for sure neither D A or U will try to fandangle a way to make pilots fly past their legality.

  6. Stupidity. If you do not have safety, you do not have an airline.
    Nobody will be flying on your planes if there is a confidence issue in the airlines safety.
    Again, you simply can not have an airline without safety as your number 1 priority, at least not very long.

  7. This is either lazy writing or purposeful deception. You make no mention of the Wizz Air CEO’s name, but you mention Bill Franke without giving his associated title; which is Chairman of Board. Look at the other comments here. They think Bill Franke, resident of Arizona, is CEO of a European airline. Try to form a valid argument instead of using deception. I bet you tell people you’re a journalist. Here’s an opinion: I don’t like Bill Franke but I dislike your kind of “writer” worse.

  8. I make a guess that we will see an increase in “incidents” now that standards are being lowered in effort to hire the thousands of pilots that the Airlines need.

  9. “Absurd barriers to becoming a pilot in the U.S.” are you kidding me? It’s still easier to become a pilot in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world. And if it’s the 1500 hour rule that you consider absurd – it’s there for a good reason. Further it’s not that hard to rack up 1500 hours in a few years and that experience provided that it is in a variety of aircraft and flight profiles gives a pilot judgment, confidence and a big picture approach to piloting an aircraft that ab intio programs cannot instill.

  10. Pilots are the biggest crybabies though.They insist on scarfing down a whole meal in between every single flight, even if it means delaying the flight. Most times they are just kicking back chatting with other pilots, too lazy to precheck their planes beforehand or order their own fuel. They call out for every little sniffle that most other people would just power through. They call out if they don’t like the line they are flying or if they stayed up too late. They call out a couple hours before they are supposed to show and we have to scramble to find standby pilots. Sometimes they pretend not to see the flight times changes they night before and then they don’t answer when they are called. Some pilots simply leave the airport when there are weather or mechanical delays. I have no sympathies for pilots.

  11. Here it is, folks…the article where Gary finally decided, after years of doing it in dribs and drabs, to blow whatever remaining credibility and journalistic integrity out his ***.

    Bill Franke has about as much to do with this as Jimmy Hoffa. Ridiculous to suggest that ULCCs have inferior safety. That is one area where NO airline cuts costs.

    R.D. is right. This article blows, and so does Gary. So long.

  12. @Alana Evans, Sure there are some crybabies. Trying to ‘power through’ a cold may be OK for a ground position, but pilots and flight attendants can’t risk an ear or sinus block.

    You find lazy people in all professions. It’s not just pilots. The vast majority of pilots want to get their passengers to their destination as quickly and as safely as possible.

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