Tui Travel has disputed the need to impose stricter UK rules across Europe to counter airline pilot fatigue.
Europe’s largest travel group which runs six European airlines was responding to a House of Commons transport committee report on flight time limitations.
MPs called on the Civil Aviation Authority to better monitor pilots working hours and to tackle what it described as a “culture of under-reporting” of pilot fatigue.
The report days proposed EU rules on the working hours and conditions for pilots and cabin crew must be improved or safety could be at risk.
Committee chairman Louise Ellman MP, launching the report today, said: “Current EU proposals risk making the situation worse, by lowering the UK’s current standards. A lowest common denominator approach to safety will not benefit passengers, airlines or crew.”
She added: “Currently, the UK implements stricter flight time regulations than some other European countries, but under the new rules proposed by the European Aviation Safety Agency, the UK would not be able to have its own regime.
“Our inquiry looked closely at EASA’s proposals to harmonise the rules that govern how many hours a pilot can fly and we concluded that they must be improved.
“Forty three per cent of pilots have reported falling asleep involuntarily at some point whilst on duty under the UK’s current regulatory framework. This shows how fatigue is already an issue in aviation. Steps must be taken to address this.”
Ellman added: “The proposed 11 hour duty period at night for pilots flies in the face of scientific evidence. It should be reduced to a 10 hour maximum. We are also concerned at the possibility that a pilot could land a plane after 22 hours awake.
“The Civil Aviation Authority must do more to monitor pilot hours so that long duty periods are the exception not the rule and we are also concerned about a culture of under-reporting of pilot fatigue, which the CAA must tackle.”
MPs accept that common European flight time limitations could improve aviation safety for UK passengers travelling on non-UK airlines. However, for these benefits to be realised the European standards must be uniformly high.
“EASA’s current proposals should be revised before the government makes any commitment to their adoption. It is important that the Government addresses our concerns as the legislative process continues in Europe,” said Ellman.
But Tui Travel responded this morning saying: “We do not believe that the EASA proposal is based on a ‘lowest common denominator approach’ and do not understand the need to implement some of the UK’s stricter rules across Europe when all of our European airlines have exemplary flight safety records.
“Safety remains our first priority and we will continue to work with the CAA and Department for Transport to ensure the proposed EASA rulings concerning harmonisation across Europe are both safe and proportionate.”
The company said it agreed with a number of aspects of the report such as open and transparent reporting of pilot hours and concerns to the CAA to ensure that we continually improve.
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