Tougher EU Airline-Pilot Flight Law Backed by Bloc’s Parliament

The European Parliament approved plans for tougher regulation of airline pilots’ flying hours including shorter nighttime duty, clearing the way for the new safety rules to enter into force in about two years.

The European Union assembly today in Strasbourg, France, threw out a veto recommendation spearheaded by left-of-center members who had called for even stricter limits to guard against fatigue. The EU’s national governments approved the new standards in July.

The draft EU law will 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, will 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.

The new law will 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 face a single 16-hour cap. Standby arrangements at home will be limited to 16 hours, with all the time spent on standby above six hours being counted as flight duty.

In addition, the draft rules will 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 will depend on how long crew members stay in the overseas city before returning. The longer the stay before the return, the more days off crew members will receive after getting home because the risk of jet lag would be higher.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Stearns in Strasbourg, France, at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at

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