British pilots to strike over long hours

By Liz Stephens

UK pilots will join demonstrations in Europe over long flying hours which they claim are putting lives at risk.

However, the British pilots are unable to strike in the UK because industrial action by pilots is illegal.

They will instead join colleagues at major European airports.

The pilots believe that current rules in force in some EU countries that allow them to work for up to 14 hours a day are “putting lives at risk”.

The rules are due to come into force in the UK in 2012.

Many believe that working conditions have already suffered as the airline industry, which has been badly effected by the global economic downturn, desperately tries to cut costs.

Speaking on the BBC this morning, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) Jim McAuslan said: “Only fatigue experts understand the impact on a body of flying through so many time zones, having consecutive early starts and late duties and all the other factors that make up a pilot’s life”.

Mr McAuslan said that scientific research had shown that pilots working anything over 13 hours a day increase their risk of an accident by five and a half times.

“When that’s brought home to the public, I hope the public will put pressure on the regulator,” he said.

However, the European Aviation Safety Agency says it is still looking into scientific research on the issue.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has denied that safety will be affected by the new rules.

In a statement this morning, a DfT spokesman said: “The safety of passengers and crew is our top priority and we will not allow this to be compromised.”

It is not yet clear whether the demonstrations will cause problems for travellers.