Bennion: New EU rules on flight times will not lower standards in UK

Commenting on today’s European Parliament vote to approve common EU flight time limits for pilots, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesman Phil Bennion MEP said:

“This is a sensible outcome. Despite concerns from pilots’ unions, these rules will not lower safety standards in the UK.

“In fact, a common system for pilot flight times will raise standards in Europe across the board, ensuring that British passengers are safe no matter what EU airline they fly with.”  

Notes to Editors:

The European Parliament today voted to reject a resolution, passed by the Transport Committee last week, that would have overturned a Commission proposal on common flight time limits for pilots.

The UK government position is to back the European Commission’s proposal. A government briefing from UKREP stressed that the regulation will “deliver a significant improvement in safety across the EU as a whole.” It added that “there is no scientific evidence to suggest that any of the specific limits established in the Regulation are unsafe,” and that “the Government is satisfied that the Regulation will not lead to any diminution in safety in the UK.” The briefing concluded that “failure to adopt the Regulation with result in the existing, less effective, EU rules remaining force with no scope for amendment for a number of years.”

The proposal harmonises at EU level a set of rules governing the maximum flight times and minimum rest periods keeping aviation safety as its main objective. The new rules reduce the maximum flight duty time at night from 11.45 hours to 11, the maximum number of flying hours per year from 1,300 to 1,000 and the maximum duty time (airport standby + flight)  is capped to 16 hours, instead of the 26 or even 28 currently applying in certain EU Member States.

The claim from pilots’ union BALPA that under the new rules pilots will have to land a plane after being awake for periods of up to 22 hours is untrue. In fact, crew members can spend a maximum of 16 hours on standby at home or in a hotel. After the first 6 hours, every additional hour on standby is deducted from the maximum flight time that can be performed afterwards. Thus, when a crew member is called out from standby at home to report for duty, the combination of standby and flight duty cannot realistically lead to a period of more than 18 consecutive hours awake, of which no more than 14 hours can be spent on board an aircraft.

Currently pilots are granted two days or even less in some EU countries when crossing several time zones, while the Commission’s text proposes up to five days.

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