Union warns summer flight schedule leading to dangerous fatigue & burnout for airline pilots

As HR Managers in most UK industries battle their annual summer challenges, like staff leave clashes, talent shortages and absenteeism as staff enjoy traditional summer holidays, HR managers in the travel industry are facing their own, specific set of challenges.

Pilot’s union British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has warned that as the UK is setting new records for air traffic, the risks to both pilot wellbeing and passenger safety are increasing.

BALPA claim that demanding schedules, lax controls of pilots’ hours of duty and a failure to recruit adequate numbers of pilots, are pushing the system to the limits and risking ‘pilot fatigue and burnout’.    The association is analysing commonly flown routes to identify those which could cause serious fatigue and is working with airlines and regulators to challenge these duties and adjust them to prevent already tired pilots becoming dangerously fatigued.

Pilots have told BALPA that an insufficient number of pilots is adding to the problem, with many airlines having difficulty staffing their flights. This leaves very little flexibility in the system. Pilots are, say the Union, flying to the limits and beyond to keep up with the summer demand.  However, they have expressed concerns that the lack of flexibility will cause disruption to summer flights, as well as increasing the numbers of pilots who are looking to go part time or have become long term sick as a result of fatigue and “burnout” caused by inadequate rest and unworkable patterns of duty.

The Union is challenging regulators and airlines to tackle the problem by assessing their recruitment strategies to ensure they have the right number of pilots available.  They are also asking airlines to tackle the serious issue of under reporting of pilot fatigue, stressing that commercial pressures cannot be allowed to have a detrimental effect on flight safety or staff wellbeing.

BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said:

“No one wants pilots at the controls when they are tired. That’s why we are campaigning across the aviation industry to make sure the pilot duty time rules are properly adhered to so that pilots get the rest they need.

“We are working with airlines and the CAA to identify and challenge patterns of duties that pose a threat to safety.  Together we aim to create an industry wide culture that makes the understanding, reporting and mitigation of fatigue a priority.”

Author: Editorial Team

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