Wizz Air president: We know there is chaos

Published date27 June 2022
Publication titleGlobes (Rishon LeZion, Israel)
With the removal of virtually all Covid restrictions in recent weeks, flight fever has returned big time and was clearly bubbling beneath the surface, waiting to boil over, both in Israel and worldwide. But the combination of workforce shortages in the airlines and mainly at airports and ground services companies has created the chaos featuring so prominently in the media and social media

In May, 1.63 million passengers passed through Ben Gurion airport, almost six times the number that traveled in May 2021. Nearly 20% flew on low-cost flights and by the end of June, Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air would have flown 114,000 passengers to and from Israel. In recent weeks, the airline's customers have undergone chaotic experiences. Two weeks ago, a flight from Ben Gurion airport to Bulgaria waited seven hours on the ground and because of a fault that did not allow the plane to take off full, only some of the passengers, randomly chosen by computer, eventually took off. In May, a flight from Tel Aviv to Venice, landed 150 kilometers away in Bologna, with no travel-on arrangements put in place. In April, a flight from Tel Aviv to London Gatwick was delayed for five hours and then redirected to Doncaster, 300 kilometers north of London, where the passengers were left to fend for themselves in the early hours of the morning. Last minute flight cancellations don't make the headlines and are not uncommon.

Wizz Air operates in Israel through three companies: Wizz Air Hungary, the largest, Wizz Air UK, set up after Brexit so that the company could keep operating in Britain, and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, opened just over a year ago and serving as one of the national carriers of the UAE.

We will cancel proactively some of the flights"

The overcrowded market and chaos are by no means just an Israeli phenomenon. The UK is one of Wizz Air's three bases and a brief browse of the online British newspapers reveals the anguish of the country's travelers as flights are canceled at the last minute, often leaving families stranded abroad. These cancellations are as prevalent with legacy airlines as they are with low-cost airlines. German national carrier Lufthansa alone has already announced 900 flight cancelations for July.

In addition to the cancelations, there are the delays, due mainly to either congestion at the airport, which piles extra pressure on flight staff who have already worked long hours, or to losing the landing slot at the destination airport.

"A small delay created this morning," recounts Carey, "gets longer as the day goes by. Unfortunately there are only 24 hours in the day and the crew's hours are completed at a certain stage. From this the last minute cancellations are caused. We very much want to provide customers with the best experience and I am absolutely aware that we are not doing so all of the time. This is what I am trying to correct at the moment. We will not succeed in completely avoiding this and I apologize to the customers that this is happening to. This is not a solution but at least we make sure to compensate them for all the expenses caused to them."

Wouldn't it have been better to lay on buses to take the rerouted passengers to London and to Venice?

"That is also something we have to correct. When a plane is forced to land so far from its destination, our plan is to hire buses to bring them to the destination. But the problem is that sometimes we don't succeed in finding buses and we have asked passengers to find their own transport. It's not what we want to do and it is not the right response that we need to give the customer. But we are working on solving this."

How can you solve something like this?

"We are going to take protective measures and proactively cancel some of our flights. We canceled the flight from Doncaster and we used some of the crew to...

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