Sir Stelios targeted by unhappy pilots

Photo: Facebook easyJet
Photo: Facebook easyJet

In an open letter to the founder of easyJet, Monaco resident Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, France’s National Union of Airline Pilots (SNPL) has said that it believes that the airline “has reached the limits of low cost”.

SNPL members who are easyJet pilots said that the company reduces “the employee to a (specific) cost and the passenger to a (specific) profit”.

In particular, they complain that pilots are faced with an unrealistic flight programme, that fatigue levels are too high, and there have been multiple payroll errors. They further assert that the budget airline suffers from “serious structural dysfunctions”.

“The crews are pushed daily to their limits, limits that have become targets,” they claim. And the consequences are directly felt by the customers, inevitably “affected by the decline of the quality of the service, the punctuality, by the state of the planes and the lack of information of which they are victims”.

“When asked to do a Nice-Olbia round trip, then a Nice-Marrakech round-trip with 25-minute stops at overloaded airports during the summer, disembarking and embarking 186 passengers plus luggage, the last flight of the day is impossible to do,” said SNPL representative Michaël Van Til.

According to the union, the number of cancelled easyJet flights has jumped from 350 in the single month of July 2016 to 541 this year.

“We are now calling on you to intervene … to restore the values that have built the image of our company,” the union’s letter said.

While Sir Stelios, the easyJet’s largest shareholder, did not directly comment, the company acknowledged in a statement the letter sent by SNPL and “is surprised as the airline is engaged in a continuous constructive dialogue with the Union, namely during the last annual negotiation”.

Stating that the airline operates “one of the largest number of flights in France, flying over 78 million passengers per year including 17 million in France, with less than 0.8% delayed by more than three hours from a network perspective”, the company was clear to point out: “easyJet would never compromise on safety and has in place a series of rigorous processes when it comes to safety, including crew training.”

Furthermore, easyJet said it’s structured to be able to manage normal levels of disruption in this busy summer period. “Unfortunately a number of external factors can increase disruption including congested airspace, particularly in the London area impacting the rest of the network and also in France, adverse weather and Air Traffic Control delays”, the airline commented, insisting that “all airlines flying the French airspace have been impacted by these issues with a disproportional impact depending on their flying pattern”.

Citing that easyJet has “invested significantly this year” to hire extra crew and make schedules more resilient while continuing to work with air traffic control across Europe to help ease congestion, the company maintains, “We work hard to minimise disruption and on the occasions when it happens we will always assist customers with their immediate requirements at the airport regardless of the cause of the event as well as always paying compensation when passengers are entitled to it.”

According to easyJet’s European PR Manager Carinne Heinen, on average, easyJet pilots based in France carry out 7.1 hours of service per day, or 3 flights per day, and flew 16 days during the month of July, “our busiest month of the year”.

easyJet is in line with European and French regulations regarding maximum flight times and their pilots based in France are the most protected of the easyJet network.

“Safety is our first priority and we have in addition to the regulations in force collective agreements with SNPL concerning flight times,” Ms Heinen told Monaco Life.

Article first published August 14, 2017.


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