European airlines: New flight time rules pose no safety threat

Three European airline associations have again issued a joint statement insisting that new Flight Time Limitations (FTL) will not erode safety. The three airline associations comprise the Association of European Airlines, the European Regions Airline Association and the International Air Carrier Association. The FTLs are proposed by European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

The latest statement was issued in response to a call by the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the European Cockpit Association (ECA) for pilots and cabin crew across Europe to join a region-wide “Walkout for Safety” Tuesday.

The unions said the action could include demonstrations at major European airports, handing over a safety petition in Brussels, other awareness-raising actions, and possibly even local work stoppages.

ETF Political Secretary for Aviation François Ballestero said: “EASA and the European Commission have taken biased decisions privileging airline revenue over passenger safety. This walkout is a signal that air crews are ready to say ‘no’ when safety is compromised. Policy-makers need to take political responsibility and set rules to effectively prevent fatigue-related accidents.”

However, the airline associations insist the final proposed FTL rules are “not a relaxation of today’s rules as the unions suggest. On the contrary, they harmonize the different FTL requirements that exist across Europe and even include some new and more restrictive requirements and limitations.” They said the proposals are the result of an extensive review involving all stakeholders including national safety regulators, airlines and trade unions.

“Based on the EASA proposal, Europe will continue to have one of the strictest FTL rules in the world,” their statement said. “The adoption process of the final rules should therefore not be derailed as a result of misleading information.”

The extent to which the “Walkout” campaign has caused any disruption is unclear, but ETF Cabin Crew Committee chair Elisabetta Chicca acknowledged, “In certain countries, aircrews will join the action day in a symbolic manner. Because of the precarious conditions in the employment market, national legal constraints or fear of reprisals, they will carry out various other actions to express their concerns and to support their European colleagues.”

The ECA represents more than 38,000 European pilots, while the ETF represents some 100,000 aircrew.
ATW, January 22, 2013