Despite the fact that Wizz Air keeps expanding, opening up new bases and taking in new aircraft deliveries, the company cited “changing market reality” as it further slashed the pay and seniority bonuses for its pilots.

In a company-wide message seen by AeroTime News, Wizz Air announced changes to its pilot salaries.

The new salary structure introduces significant cuts to seniority bonuses, as the company will now cap seniority bonus scale to 5,000 flight hours. If previously a pilot with over 12,000 flight hours, for example, could have earned over €36,000 ($42,515) as a seniority bonus, now the bonus will stay capped at €10,000 ($11,811) and 5,000 flight hours. In comparison, the seniority bonus of having 5,000 flight hours used to stand at €20,000 ($23,627).

“For existing employees above 5,000 hours – seniority pay will stop at 5,000 hours,” reads the announcement by Wizz Air. Effective August 1, 2020, the new scale has been applied to new hires and existing employees that had fewer than 5,000 flight hours.

Furthermore, the base salary was cut all across the board. If a first officer prior to the current crisis earned a base salary of €21,000 ($24,816), now they earn €15,750 ($18,612). If a first officer is freshly hired, however, their base salary starts at €17,000 ($20,088).

Fire and rehire

Wizz Air has been one of the rare exceptions throughout the pandemic, as the airline expanded into new bases and accepted new aircraft deliveries. Its fleet has grown to 123 aircraft in Q1 FY2021, while a year earlier the airline had 114 aircraft to its name. Throughout the quarter, the low-cost carrier accepted its first A320neo narrow-bodies, of which it now has three, according to data.

The Hungary-based company also reiterated plans to launch its Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates-based subsidiary called Wizz Air Abu Dhabi. To facilitate the start of operations, it has launched a recruitment campaign to employ pilots at Abu Dhabi and other newly-established bases.

The first A321neo aircraft for Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, Wizz Air’s newest subsidiary based in the Middle East, was spotted in Hamburg on August 3, 2020, awaiting flight testing before its final destination.

For its recently fired employees, in an internal letter seen by AeroTime News from July 2020, the company indicated that “redundant pilots will have to follow the same application process as a new joiner.”

However, the new salary scale will also apply to new hires and rehires, according to the message. Currently, employed pilots’ salaries will “be brought back to the pre-COVID salary levels as of April 1, 2021.” Newly hired pilots will see a significant reduction in pay compared to the flight crews which stayed with the company throughout 2020.

“Changing market reality resulting in reduced demand for travel and downward pressure on all costs,” reasoned Wizz Air.

Wizz Air is facing criticism from its unions over the way it has handled its employee situation when it fired almost 20% of its total workforce and is now allowing the redundant crew members to apply and go through the same recruitment process as fresh candidates.