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European Parliament backs pilots' flying time regulations despite claims from unions that new rules could put passenger safety at risk

Union claims new rules could lead to pilots flying while dangerously fatigued

The European Parliament today voted through legislation standardising pilots’ flight and rest times across the EU, despite claims from unions that it could put passenger safety at risk.

The amendments are aimed at battling pilot fatigue and making sure the same strict rules apply across the bloc. But last month the European Parliament’s transport committee rejected the proposals after lobbying by British and European pilots’ unions, sending it to a full plenary vote.

The new EU rules will lower pilots’ maximum flying hours in most of the 28 member states. Pilots will only be allowed to fly up to 11 hours at night, while at present in many countries night-time flying of 11 hours and 45 minutes is permitted. However in some circumstances night flying is capped at 10 hours and 15 minutes in Britain, and the unions want it to be lowered even further to 10 hours.

Siim Kallas, the EU’s transport commissioner, said the decision by MEPs today to approve the changes was “a victory for common sense” which would “bring better protection of passengers and safer working conditions for crew”.

Union officials, however, argue that the law changes will lower the standards in some countries including Britain and could lead to pilots flying while dangerously fatigued. Jim McAuslan, secretary general of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), urged the government to intervene. “British pilots want to make every flight a safe flight and are deeply concerned that these unsafe new EU rules will put the lives of passenger at risk,” he said.