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Tougher EU Airline-Pilot Flight Law Opposed by Parliament Panel

A European Parliament committee opposed plans for tougher regulation of airline pilots’ flying hours including shorter nighttime duty, setting the stage for a vote on the new safety rules by the full assembly in October.

The European Union assembly’s transport committee today in Brussels endorsed a veto recommendation by left-of-center members who want even stricter limits. The whole 766-seat Parliament must give its verdict by Oct. 25. The EU’s national governments approved the new standards in July.

The draft EU law would reduce airline crews’ working hours at night to a maximum of 11 hours from the current ceiling of 11 hours and 45 minutes. The existing EU daytime flight-time limit of 13 hours, with an extra hour possible twice a week, would be unchanged.

At present the U.K., with a nighttime ceiling of 11 hours and 15 minutes, is the only member state with a limit below the current EU maximum, according to the European Commission, the 28-nation bloc’s regulatory arm that proposed the legislation. Opponents on the EU Parliament’s transport committee, backed by unions including the British Airline Pilots’ Association, want a night-duty limit of no more than 10 hours.

The new law would also introduce EU-wide limits on how much time crews could be on standby and then on flight duty. The combination of standby periods at airports and flight duty would face a single 16-hour cap. Standby arrangements at home would be limited to 16 hours, with all the time spent on standby above six hours being counted as flight duty.

Draft Rules

In addition, the draft rules would extend the required rest periods for crews after duty from a minimum of 10 hours in any case to at least 14 hours for flights that cross more than three time zones.

Furthermore, time off after a long roundtrip could rise to as many as five days from two days. This would depend on how long crew members stayed in the overseas city before returning. The longer the stay before the return, the more days off crew members would receive after getting home because the risk of jet lag would be higher.

The Association of European Airlines representing network carriers including Air France-KLM (AF) Group, Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) and British Airways supports the draft legislation, saying it’s preferable to a more fragmented legislative framework for flying hours in Europe.

The new law is based on 2012 recommendations from the European Aviation Safety Agency. Under decision-making procedures for these types of rules, the full EU Parliament has a three-month window in which to reject them or let them proceed. The Parliament’s scrutiny period for the planned flying rules ends on Oct. 25.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Stearns in Brussels at jstearns2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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