Edelweiss Air Crews Express Safety & Passenger Experience Concerns

Edelweiss Air is Swiss’ leisure airline, which operates a fleet of A320s, A330s and A340s, to both shorthaul and longhaul destinations. They’re not a low cost carrier per se, but rather operate routes to many leisure destinations that wouldn’t work for Swiss (for example, they fly to Tampa, Florida).

Employees at Edelweiss Air have written an eight page open letter to management expressing their concerns — pilots have safety concerns, and cabin crew have passenger experience concerns.

It should also probably be mentioned that there’s quite a bit of contention between employees and management at the company right now over wages, and the pilots haven’t extended their current contracts beyond May 2019. So while I’m not suggesting they’re expressing these concerns as a negotiating tactic, this also can’t be completely ruled out, given the timing.

So, what safety concerns are pilots expressing?

  • Pilots aren’t happy that the pilot crew rests on the A340s are at the back of the plane, 40 meters from the cockpit. They say that in the event of an emergency it would take a long time to get back to the cockpit. This is an interesting claim for them to make, since it’s my understanding that typically airline pilots are trained so that any two pilots in the cockpit should be able to perform all necessary duties, even in an emergency. Furthermore, many airlines have pilot crew rests in the back of the plane.
  • Pilots claim that Edelweiss Air’s newly acquired A320s (which used to fly for airberlin) don’t have RAAS ground collision warning systems and automatic icing warning systems. This is something I have no clue about whatsoever.

Furthermore, cabin crew aren’t happy because they claim that the product on the two airberlin Airbus A320s that they recently acquired aren’t up to the usual standards for the airline. These planes don’t have overhead screens containing flight information, there’s no extra legroom in business class (on other Edelweiss A320s there’s an extra two inches of legroom in business class), and the seat width is supposedly less than on other planes as well.


Image courtesy of Andy Mitchell

I’m seeing stories questioning whether Edelweiss Air is safe anymore. While the public never has a full picture of the safety of a particular airline, this seems a bit out of place. Are these areas where there’s maybe room for improvement? Yes. But let’s keep in mind that when it comes to safety, airberlin was a safe airline as well, and they flew these A320s for years without anyone raising concerns. Furthermore, Edelweiss Air hasn’t faced any sort of issues with the relevant authorities when it comes to safety.

I do think there’s at least some merit to the cabin crew being embarrassed by the product on two of their planes, which are subpar and not what people are expecting. As the frontline employees they’re probably receiving the bulk of the complaints, and that’s not fair.

(Tip of the hat to Andy, featured image courtesy of Anna Zvereva)

Comments

  1. Dunno but my experience last year on Edelweiss between Zürich and Split was subpar. Purchased through Swiss the online check-in was impossible and even at usually-flawless ZRH the overwhelmed counter staff were also stunned at how the system was requiring them to manually check me in. The aircraft and crew were subpar compared to Swiss, though I had no reason expect they wouldn’t be. It was nearly impossible, and eventually I gave up trying, to credit these flights to my Miles & More account due to the insane complexity of crediting Edelweiss flights (even though it was purchased via Swiss.com and I had LX flight numbers operated by Edelweiss). I refused to manually fax documentation to Germany as required by Miles & More to receive a measly 250 miles as it wasn’t worth all the effort required. Bah humbug

  2. I am a bit surprised by the safety concerns expressed here, as nothing seems particularly out of the ordinary.

    Edelweiss Air is a nice little airline. I flew with them from ZRH to the Canary Islands two years ago and the crew was great – charming and friendly. A small meal was even served to all economy passengers along with plenty of snacks after that. Not cheap but a very good experience.

  3. That’s strange. I took an airberlin A320 just before they went out of business from TXL-MUC and it had overhead screens showing where we were and the amenities were fine.

  4. Have Edelweiss suddenly moved the flight deck rest to the back of the plane then? If not, then why raise the issue now?

  5. My main question/issue is related to the two safety relevant systems. It remains unclear from the Swiss media whether there are any other sytems in place which are fit for the same purpose? It’s also not clear whether they have been removed by management or not added … I hope to get some clarification on this, since both terrain and icing conditions are prevalent in this part of the world.

    As regards the service, I think Edelweiss is at least at par with their parent companies LX and LH. Yes, seat pitch in paricular in Business is an issue, same as LX/LH.

    Finally, one of the key concerns of frequent flyers is that even when booked under LX (or UA) code, Edelweiss only earns bonus miles, but no status miles. That is worse than Eurowings, which at least earns status miles in their parent’s own program, as well as UA. An issue which becomes more and more relevant, because Edelweiss expands rapidly into non-leisure destinations (e.g. Buenos Aires, Denver).

  6. I’d still consider your point on the “crew rest” issue. You’ve made two claims, which are as follows.

    1. 2-pilot crews should be trained to perform all necessary duties.

    This statement, although sound at first, presents some challenges. Multiple occasions prove the utility of the reserve crew in case of emergency. During NW0085 in 2002, for example, the reserve crew aided the existing crew in the manual flying of the 747, which could not be controlled by two pilots alone due to the nature of the mechanical issue. Multiple incidents could likely result in the incapacitation of both pilots flying: mechanical issues like those on NW85, deliberate attack on both crewmembers, or even something as simple as fatigue or distraction (recall when NW188 overshot MSP by 150 miles due to distraction). In some cases, it is necessary to have the reserve crew assist the flying crew, hence the installation of emergency chimes and alerts in the pilot crew rest area.

    2. Many airlines have pilot crew rests in the back of the plane.
    This is blatantly false. Flight attendant crew rests are normally located at the rear of the aircraft or in the cargo hold, separated usually by locks and codes with hidden doors to prevent unwanted access. Pilot crew

  7. rests are normally in other locations, normally either within the confines of the cockpit/flight deck or in an area no more than 5 meters away from the flight deck. Onboard the 747, the pilot crew rest is directly behind the flight deck and sealed off from passengers. Onboard the 777 and 787, it’s in a compartment above first class / the first row(s) of business class. Onboard the A380, it’s directly behind the flight deck door. Onboard the A350, it’s in the same position as the 777 and 787. The issue with the A330 and A340 is that it appears that the pilot crew rest at the front of the aircraft is optional, replaced by some airlines with additional galley space. This puts the pilots under the Door 4 Galley, far from the cockpit. In case of incapacitation and a requirement to reach the flight deck, it is possible that sudden control inputs (deliberate or accidental) may hamper efforts, and that the time required to reach the cockpit may be insufficient to restore control.

  8. I would agree with J that it is not normal to have the pilot crew rest at the rear of the aircraft. It’s not a major issue but it’s certainly not ideal.

    RAAS is a system to prevent runway incursions which remain a serious issue in aviation. Now the airline I fly for hasn’t equipped our A320 series aircraft either with RAAS or ice detectors and we operate safely without them. The bigger isssue arises when you are used to operating with a certain system and then you have certain aircraft that aren’t equipped with it. This can create real safety issues because your habit patterns are expecting certain cues and now they aren’t there. Again it’s not a major issue but it is a legitimate safety concern.

  9. The seat width claim, as absurd as it sounds to most people, is actually a possibility. What you don’t know is Airbus offers a wide aisle option for faster boarding and deplaning, and given how airberlin was a partially budget carrier I wouldn’t be surprised if they went for the faster boarding time.

  10. This piece said almost nothing that could be deemed to be objective. The employees are pissed off at management over money. Do you think they are going to write nice things to their bosses? In the interest of responsible journalism, please, someone from OMAAT take some flights on this carrier and check it out!

  11. Why don’t they just merge it into Eurowings and turn in to Eurowings Switzerland or something?

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