Once again, Wizz Air abandons their employees in Ukraine

9 Mar 2022

It seems to be the same old story that inevitably goes back again and again to the low-cost Hungarian carrier Wizz Air. Just this time, its actions are outrageous as they are directly linked to the war in Ukraine.

While Wizz Air management publicly states its intentions to get its workers out of Ukraine, the Wizz management team could have taken the decision to cease operations in Ukraine and evacuate its workers before the war started.

In reality, they simply do not care about their crew in Ukraine. How can Joseph Varadi ever look into the employees’ eyes and tell them he tried to help, knowing that it is all just but a lie? When the war started, the Wizz management team ‘successfully’ managed to leave its Ukraine based crews stranded in Ukraine. While faking how much they care about the safety of their staff. Messages published on Wizz Air’s internal social network show clearly that the low-cost carrier continued to operate in Ukraine until the last possible moment, ignoring all the official warnings, as well as those from inside the airline itself. Many workers both inside and outside Ukraine outlined their anger and frustration at the decision which has left both Wizz Air workers and their families abandoned.

While Wizz CEO, József Váradi or Wizz Group Executive Vice President, Michael Delehant, were communicating on the so-called efforts the company ‘was taking for the safety of its crews’ in Ukraine; the Wizz Ukraine based employees’ reactions prove the contrary: the company actually kept aircraft and teams working in Ukraine until the last moment. And what is even more tragic is that due to this ‘profit only focused policy’, there was zero support, and no assistance from Wizz to evacuate its crews from Ukraine at the time when evacuation was still possible.

As always, when it comes to Wizz Air, in times of need, the people working for them will have to count only on themselves to find a way out. That has always been the ‘fidelity’ policy Wizz is applying: one-way street. Even during times of war.

We have information indicating that many of Wizz’s employees in Ukraine were abandoned in Ukraine. Some of them spent more nights sleeping on the floors of the Kyiv subway; others were stuck in districts subject to bombing by Russia, living in constant fear, losing their homes. If the management had only acted earlier when warned instead of operating up to the moment of invasion, this would not have happened. As someone indicated to us, ‘while CEO, Josef Varadi, sits with his millions in his mansion, the Ukraine crews he left abandoned are in danger of losing their lives, loved ones and homes.

And this is not all! Wizz management’s initial intention was to impose unpaid leave before Ukraine’s invasion by Russia. This would be just an extension of the ‘firing policy’ they had applied all over Europe at the beginning of the pandemic. Just, this time, unashamedly, they have done the same in times of war.

We are convinced these claims to get workers out of Ukraine are just PR trying to cover the dirty tactics they applied in Ukraine to maximise their profit and trying to hide all the wrong decisions they took, leading to the abandoning of their Ukrainian crews. So, Wizz is now offering free tickets to the refugees fleeing Ukraine after they intentionally failed to save their employees in Ukraine.

Do you think their new promises will come through? For us, it is crystal clear that it is pure hypocrisy. It is just another Wizz Air episode of profit over people and their safety during a war.

This is just one of the opportunistic airlines that maintained flights in and out of Ukraine until the last minute. Some others show no remorse in exploiting the war by encouraging passengers to travel through their hubs rather than the EU, as they still allow Russian aircraft to transit their airspace. It means up to 4-5 hours longer routes, as a direct consequence of excluding air traffic over Ukraine. So, not just the safety of passengers and the cabin crew and pilots are under threat for the flights over or near warzones, but there are significant extra working hours for our workers.

At the same time, the same war – the war in Ukraine – has left many aviation workers stranded and without any support from their employers, with no pay and most likely no accommodation. ETF transport unions across Europe are working tirelessly to assist stranded transport workers and fleeing transport workers and their families by providing accommodation, food and financial assistance. We provide practical assistance via a dedicated page, and thus we stay in direct contact with our transport workers and their families. They can get in touch with us via: helpukraine@etf-europe.org, and we will immediately inform our members of the needed support.

Furthermore, we will investigate and promote safe ways in which aviation can continue to support the movement of refugees around Europe and deliver humanitarian aid as quickly and efficiently as possible.