Magazine article European Social Policy

Air Transport : Flight Time Divides Airlines and Unions

Magazine article European Social Policy

Air Transport : Flight Time Divides Airlines and Unions

Article excerpt

Airlines and pilot unions are waging a war over limits on pilots' flight time. The safety argument is at the centre of the controversy and, so far, the airlines have an advantage. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approved, on 20 December 2010, proposals for setting a European standard of a maximum flight time of 14 hours for daytime flights and 12 hours for night flights. This is exactly the opposite of what unions are seeking: the tightening of existing EU legislation (Regulation 1899/2006) that allows 13 consecutive hours of flight time with the possibility to prolong this maximum by one hour twice a week. For night flights, maximum flight time is currently 11 hours and 45 minutes.

The European Commission will determine what action to take on the EASA proposals, which are subject to a consultation of stakeholders. However, the European Cockpit Association (ECA), which represents pilots, is particularly disappointed considering that the EASA had published, in January 2009, a scientific report clearly stating that existing flight times are too long for pilots and recommending a reduction in the maximum times set by EU legislation. They find the EASA proposal hard to swallow. The text is "more than disappointing," commented ECA President Captain Martin Chalk. The association points out that a text being discussed in the United States is stricter than the EASA proposal since it limits flight time to 13 hours (nine hours for night flights). …

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