Skip to content
Aviation, Union

FATIGUE DOESN’T FLY: AUSTRALIAN CABIN CREW CALL FOR A FAIR GO

Flight Attendants' Association of Australia (FAAA) 5 mins read
Teri O'Toole, Federal Secretary, FAAA

On International Cabin Crew Day, Friday May 31, the Flight Attendants' Association of Australia (FAAA) is launching the “Fatigue Doesn’t Fly” campaign urging the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to introduce mandatory flight time and rest regulations for cabin crew. 

More than ten years after the initial consultation process and five years after the introduction of regulations for pilots, cabin crew are asking for equal treatment. CASA regulation 48.2 will set a regulatory minimum standard for rest periods, for rest facilities on board to manage fatigue risks, and ensure that all Australian cabin crew are well-rested and capable of performing their safety-critical roles.

Teri O'Toole, Federal Secretary of the FAAA is calling on CASA to give cabin crew a fair go. “We only want what cabin crew all over the world have, including our colleagues in Sierra Leone and Bangladesh, some of the recognised poorest countries in the world. Singapore, one of the few countries with flight lengths comparable to those of Australian crew, have had regulated flight time limitations (FTLs) for long-haul flying since 2017,” she says.

“Aligning with international standards will not only enhance safety but also ensure fair and consistent working conditions across the industry. Our aviation safety authority should have oversight and protections for all stakeholders in aviation, not just pilots. Relying on safe standards for fatigue risk should not be left to bargaining in Enterprise Bargaining Agreements. Health and safety should be mandatory and regulated, not something that relies on sitting down every four years to bargain for. We are calling for a much-needed permanent regulatory safety net. 

“Our cabin crew travel the same distances and spend the same time in the air as pilots but are suffering without the same safety net when it comes to rest and scheduling. Why do pilots have better rest facilities on board than cabin crew? Because it’s mandated by CASA! Both cabin crew and pilots are human and should have the same consideration for how they take their rest on board. CASA has one job, to have oversight over airlines and their employees, so why isn’t it doing that? Without binding regulations on rest and duties limitations, the kids are running the candy store as airlines have free rein to make these decisions, and it is clear that profits and commercial considerations will always come before the human cost,” she adds.

The Critical Role of Cabin Crew

 

Cabin crew members are multi-skilled professionals trained in safety, fire, evacuation, and medical emergencies, serving as the first responders of the air. They manage passenger safety, handle inflight emergencies, detect human trafficking, and ensure compliance with aviation safety protocols and face ever increasing air rage incidents and turbulent flights as recent as the last week. 

Captain Tony Lucas, President, Australian and International Pilots Association notes: “Our cabin crew are first responders in the event of an onboard emergency or medical situation. Just as a minimum of two well trained and well rested pilots are required for every flight, having well trained and well rested cabin crew are a vital part of the safety management process dealing with emergencies”.

The Dangers of Fatigue in the Air 

Fatigue is a well-documented risk factor in aviation safety, impairing judgement, reaction times, and overall performance. In addition to findings that fatigue increases the likelihood of errors during critical safety tasks, research by Van Den Berg et al. (2020) highlights the severe health impacts of chronic fatigue, including cardiovascular issues, mental health problems, and weakened immune systems as well as increasing the likelihood of cancer or Alzheimer's disease. 

Kris Major, European Transport Workers Federation, Aircrew regulation specialist and EASA FTL trainer who helped create the European Union regulations on aviation fatigue says: “The perception of fatigue affecting the safety of an aircraft is daily when it comes to pilots because they are seen to ‘fly’ every day and thankfully, cabin crew are only called upon to evacuate very rarely. But our safety role isn’t just about evacuating, just as a pilot isn’t dealing with an emergency landing every day. Aircrew stand prepared for any eventuality and our legislation must echo that. That required vigilance takes a toll psychologically, and crews must be allowed to recharge. 

“People naturally assume fatigue must already be protected within a modern and contemporary nation but it isn’t. Working conditions that are based on the limits of human endurance without factoring outside activity require very careful management,” he adds. 

O'Toole compares the dangers of flight fatigue to asbestos as a workplace risk:  "Fatigue is the asbestos of aviation; invisible but deadly. We must act now to protect our cabin crew and, by extension, our passengers. Indeed, the recent incidents of turbulence show how crucial a well-rested crew is.”

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Secretary Sally McManus has added her support: “Unions stand with the Flight Attendants' Association of Australia in their campaign for fair working conditions and adequate rest for cabin crew. CASA must listen to the voices of these workers and take immediate action to implement fatigue management regulations. Unsafe work means unsafe trips for passengers.”

International Standards 

Most Commonwealth countries have already implemented FTLs for cabin crew with Australia remaining an outlier. Aligning with international standards will enhance safety, ensure uniform fatigue management, and improve working conditions for cabin crew.

Gabriel Mocho Rodriguez, Civil Aviation and Tourism Services Section Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation states, “ITF stands with FAAA and their campaign to get a contemporary scientifically based fatigue prevention set of flight time limitations that protects passengers and demonstrates Australia's real commitment to aviation safety with actions not just words. Considering that the rest of the world has already implemented such measures, it is disturbing that Australia lags behind even many developing countries. International standards cannot be met by simply relying on reputation alone, there are guidance and agreements that require cabin crew to be protected from fatigue. The ITF supports FAAA in their brave voice to stand up and say enough is enough, cabin crew, and the travelling public deserve better.”

Personal Accounts of Fatigue

Gareth Uren, Assistant Secretary Domestic, FAAA and cabin crew shares his personal perspective. "I am aware of members at some airlines working commonly five or six days in a row with four sectors each day, which is incredibly exhausting,” he says. “By the end of the week, your body feels completely drained, and it's hard to stay alert and focused. The workload is intense, with barely any time to rest in between flights. Fatigue can set in quickly, affecting both performance and overall well-being."

Join the Campaign

On International Cabin Crew Day, the Fatigue Doesn’t Fly campaign is calling on supporters to recognise the indispensable contributions of cabin crew and advocate for their safety and well-being. Everyone, from flight attendants to passengers, is invited to sign the petition at https://fatiguedoesntfly.com.au

About International Cabin Crew Day 

International Cabin Crew Day celebrates the dedication and professionalism of cabin crew members globally. It is an opportunity to highlight their critical role in aviation safety and honour their resilience in the face of challenges like fatigue and long working hours.

ACTU President Michele O’Neil notes: "International Cabin Crew Day is about valuing the role that cabin crew play in the safety, support and comfort of passengers. These workers play a critical role and are important for the success and safety of every flight - they deserve conditions that protect their health and wellbeing.”

For more information about the campaign or to support the initiative, visit: https://fatiguedoesntfly.com.au


Key Facts:
  • Australian cabin crew call on CASA for an end to eleven year long wait for flight time and rest regulations
  • Consultation process with CASA and industry stakeholders began in 2013
  • In 2019, CASA rolled out mandatory regulations for pilots but not cabin crew  
  • Majority of Commonwealth countries including developing countries such as Sierra Leone, Bangladesh and the whole of the EU have these regulations called Flight Time Limitations overseen by their Civil Aviation Authorities.
  • Crew need to be well rested to make the safety decisions in critical situations as the first responders in the air 
  • Fatigue is the asbestos of aviation; invisible but deadly says FAAA Federal Secretary Teri O’Toole
  • Support for the campaign from ACTU, AIPA, ITF and ETWF

About us:

The Flight Attendant’s Association of Australia (FAAA) is the largest flight attendant union in Australia comprising flight attendants from airlines across Australia. The union supports members with rights and obligations and negotiates with airlines on EBAs. https://www.faaa.com.au/


Contact details:

Louise Nealon, 0403 569 177, louise@louisenealon.com 

Media

More from this category

  • Aviation
  • 13/06/2024
  • 12:04
Civil Aviation Safety Authority

GIVING MARYBOROUGH PILOTS FUEL FOR THOUGHT

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) invites pilots of all licence categories to take part in the latest pilot safety seminar in Maryborough this…

  • Contains:
  • Union
  • 13/06/2024
  • 05:30
National Tertiary Education Union

RMIT staff to walk off the job for the fifth time in one year

NTEU members at RMIT will launch a 1.5 day strike on Thursday June 13 and vote on boycotting RMIT Open Day - one of the university’s most lucrative student procurement activities. RMIT staff have had enough of management’s aggressive and unprecedented tactics to thwart the bargaining process, which has left some RMIT staff among the lowest paid in the tertiary sector. RMIT’s University Enterprise Agreement expired three years ago, the VE Teachers agreement two years ago, and RMIT staff have taken more industrial action this bargaining round than at any other time in RMIT’s 137-year history. “While RMIT staff are…

  • Union
  • 13/06/2024
  • 05:30
National Tertiary Education Union

RMIT staff to walk off the job for the fifth time in one year

NTEU members at RMIT will launch a 1.5 day strike on Thursday June 13 and vote on boycotting RMIT Open Day - one of the university’s most lucrative student procurement activities. RMIT staff have had enough of management’s aggressive and unprecedented tactics to thwart the bargaining process, which has left some RMIT staff among the lowest paid in the tertiary sector. RMIT’s University Enterprise Agreement expired three years ago, the VE Teachers agreement two years ago, and RMIT staff have taken more industrial action this bargaining round than at any other time in RMIT’s 137-year history. “While RMIT staff are…

Media Outreach made fast, easy, simple.

Feature your press release on Medianet's News Hub every time you distribute with Medianet. Pay per release or save with a subscription.