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Flight time limitations - stricter rules on aircrew fatigue

09 October 2013
by eub2 -- last modified 09 October 2013

New rules on maximum flight times for pilots and cabin crew should now be adopted by the European Commission, as a resolution calling on it to withdraw them was voted down in Parliament's plenary session on 9 October.


The purpose of this new legislation to modernise the high European standards on aviation safety is to clarify and improve the current regulations on flight and duty time limitations (known as flight time limitations, or "FTL") — taking into account the latest scientific and technical evidence.

The proposal includes more than 30 provisions aimed at improving the crew protection against fatigue, offering them safer and better working conditions. They include important issues such as in-flight rest for cabin crew, and strict limits on night flights, standby and reserve.

The new legislation includes:

  • The reduction of flight duty time at night by 45 minutes (maximum 11h instead of 11h45),
  • The reduction of the maximum number of flying hours from 1,300 to 1,000 in 12 consecutive months,
  • The increase of the weekly rest by 12 hours (2 days instead of 1½ day) twice a month,
  • The grant of up to 5 days of rest at home base in case of significant time zone crossing (instead of 2 days currently, or even less in some Member States),
  • An important reduction of the maximum duty time (standby + flight time) in case of airport standby (16h instead of 26–28h in some Member States).

FTL safety rules are without prejudice to the applicable EU and national legislation, including rules concerning working time, health and safety at work or existing and future collective labour agreements (CLAs). In addition, the relation between safety and social rules is based on the principle that the most protective rule applies.

In supporting the draft regulation, the European Parliament confirmed the view of the majority of aviation safety professionals in favour of a comprehensive and well balanced approach which will bring about safety improvements to flight attendants and pilots in the European aviation sector — to the benefit of passengers.

The draft Commission regulation received a positive vote in the EASA Committee meeting on 12 July 2013 and was submitted to the EP for a three-month scrutiny.

Next steps:

The Commission will now formally enact the Regulation. It can be expected to come into force at the end of 2013 and will become fully applicable two years later.

There will be a continuous on-going assessment of the new FTL regime, run by EASA alongside Member States and involving stakeholders and scientific expertise, which will be based on real operational data, to monitor the effectiveness of the system. EASA's first regular report on the results of the monitoring programme is due no later than three years after the date of application of the rules.