airlines - pilots call time


EUROPEAN UNION transport ministers have unexpectedly rejected their own proposal to extend cockpit hours from 12 to a maximum of 14 hours, and to reduce rest breaks and stopover periods The move came after a campaign spearheaded by Balpa, the British Airline Pilots Association.

Balpa had delivered clear evidence that fatal air accidents were linked to excessive hours, and this was coupled with a developing campaign for industrial action across Europe. "Research proves that you are six times likelier to have an air accident when the pilot has flown 13 hours or more. Rather than take that risk, we will be instructing pilots to refuse to fly when tired," said a spokesman.

That threat on its own was sufficient to roll back a united alliance of employers, government and EU.The airlines wanted the extended hours, the British Transport Minister wanted the extended hours, the EU committee which proposed the extension was chaired by a British MEP now dumped after the 10 June election.

It is only fitting that a British trade union took the lead in shooting them down. Passenger and staff safety remain central for the aviation trade unions.

Meanwhile, baggage handlers and check-in staff at 17 major British airports have voted to take industrial action in a pay dispute with ground handling agency Aviance.

GMB senior organiser Ed Blisset warned that the action could cause massive disruption, as it will involve dispatchers — people who deal with the weight and balance of loaded aircraft — who are not easily replaced.