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Pilots campaign against EU flight time limitations

BALPA pilots visit Downing Street to deliver a petition against EASA's recommendations.
BALPA pilots visit Downing Street to deliver a petition against EASA’s recommendations.

On 22 January, pilot and cabin-crew organisations staged demonstrations across the European Union calling for better protection against in-flight fatigue. Petitions were handed to the British Government and the CAA, while demonstrations were staged at airports across 15 EU member states including Germany, Spain and Italy.

Pilots from the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) delivered a dossier containing scientific reports, correspondence and testimonials to Number 10, the Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who, amongst them, will decide whether to agree with Europe’s newly recommended safety limits.

Jim McAuslan, BALPA’s General Secretary, explained, “Pilots and cabin crew are united on this. Fatigue regulations must be safe, they must be scientifically sound and they must recognise the danger that fatigue presents to the travelling public. The rules that the EU are imposing on the UK will make pilots fly more tired, more often and will certainly increase the chance of a fatigue-related accident in the UK.”

On behalf of UK cabin crew, Oliver Richardson from Unite the Union said, “EASA’s proposals are hugely worrying for cabin crew and we are working closely with our pilot colleagues to ensure decision makers are aware of our shared concerns. Alert and well-rested cabin crew are vital to ensuring the safety of passengers on board aircraft, and these proposals will simply make the situation much worse for both cabin and flight crew.”

The European Cockpit Association (ECA) which represents pilots and the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF) which represents crew worked together to stage action including demonstrations in 15 EU member states and a 100,000 signature petition to be handed over in Brussels. “We see that a tired pilot is a dangerous pilot and a tired cabin crew will endanger passengers’ safety in any case of emergency,” said European Cockpit Association (ECA) Vice President Francois Nardy.

The proposals from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will replace the UK’s current domestic regulations. New standby provisions could see pilots landing after being awake for 22 hours or more, a reduction on the number of pilots required on very long-haul flights, and the elimination of the restrictions on the number of early starts pilots can do.

The plans to standardise EU flight time legislation are still under negotiation.