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EasyJet Plc’s French pilots have appealed to Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the U.K. discount carrier’s founder and biggest shareholder, to intervene in a dispute with management over the impact of cost cuts.
The SNPL union wrote to Stelios, who goes by his first name, complaining that the Luton, England-based company’s Lean savings program has led to flight cancellations, delays in the payment of more than 500,000 euros ($591,000) in wages, rifts with suppliers and concerns about safety amid crew fatigue.
“Pilots are being asked to use their discretionary power to exceed the legal flight time limits to facilitate an unachievable program, to the detriment of passenger and crew safety,” the SNPL said in an open letter, urging Stelios to “restore the values” of the “tarnished” airline.
EasyJet said by email that it’s “surprised” by the complaints, having engaged the union in a “continuous constructive dialog.” Flight delays have been caused by factors including congested airspace, adverse weather and air traffic control actions, and extra crew have been hired to make schedules more resilient, the carrier said, adding that it “would never compromise on safety.”
The French dispute comes as Chief Executive Officer Carolyn McCall prepares to leave EasyJet at the end of this year to run U.K. broadcaster ITV Plc, with no successor yet appointed. The Lean program last year saved the company 95 million pounds ($124 million) in airport, ground handling, maintenance, and supplier management costs, according to its annual report.
In its letter, the SNPL cited an incident last month in which an airport worker in Nice, France, and an EasyJet passenger exchanged blows in a confrontation over delays as a “physical demonstration that a final stage of exasperation has been reached.”
A representative of Stelios, who founded EasyJet in 1995 and clashed with McCall early in her tenure over the pace of growth and rapid fleet expansion, didn’t respond to requests for comment.