József Váradi, chief executive of Wizz Air, said in an internal video message: “Now that everyone is getting back into work, I understand that fatigue is a potential outcome of the issues.
“But once we are starting stabilising the rosters we also need to take down the fatigue rate.
“I mean we cannot run this business when every fifth person of a base reports sickness because the person is fatigued.
“We are all fatigued. But sometimes it is required to go the extra mile.
“The damage is huge when we are cancelling a flight. It’s huge. It’s reputational damage of the brand and it is the other financial damage, the transactional damage because we have to pay compensation for that.”
The European Cockpit Association, representing 40,000 pilots, tweeted: “Deficient safety culture alert! @WizzAir CEO encourages pilots to fly fatigued!
“It’s like handing the car keys to a drunk driver.”
The Twitter message called for the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) to step in.
Martin Chalk, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa), said: “I would urge Mr Váradi to swiftly clarify that Wizz Air would fully support any pilot who does the right thing by not flying if they feel fatigued, for the safety of their passengers, crew and aircraft.
“I urge him to be as professional as his pilots in seeking to eradicate fatigue from the flight deck.”
One senior UK aviation figure told The Independent: “I’m shocked. Never seen anything like this.”
A spokesperson for Wizz Air said: “This clip has been edited from an all-staff briefing on key business updates and current challenges facing aviation. Supply chain issues are affecting all airlines, in particular staff availability and welfare.
“Our crew unavailability has been very low, at 4 per cent. In this context, going the extra mile to minimise disruption was discussed.
The UK Air Navigation Order, as interpreted by the Civil Aviation Authority, says: “A crew member shall not fly, and an operator shall not require him to fly, if either has reason to believe that he is suffering, or is likely to suffer while flying, from such fatigue as may endanger the safety of the aircraft or of its occupants.”
Wizz Air, based in Budapest, operates many flights to and from the UK – primarily serving eastern Europe, but with an increasing number of Mediterranean destinations. Its main British hub is Luton airport.