The airline industry is a growing 24/7 operation, boasting an estimated 39 million flights to be flown worldwide by the end of 2018. Flying passengers across the country, or even across the globe, can create a variety of different challenges for cabin crew, including extended duty periods, highly variable schedules, possible frequent time zone changes, and increased passenger loads.
A study has shown a link between the job characteristics of cabin crew and fatigue. The graph below is an indication of the main work factors that contribute to fatigue amongst cabin crew workers, according to union representatives. Long hours and lack of rest are seen as the main offenders.
Other factors that may contribute to cabin crew fatigue include, but are not limited to:
- Consecutive duty days
- Length of layovers
- Timezone changes
- Availability for breaks
- Availability of a healthy meal
- Passenger disruption
- Aircraft type swaps
In 2016, a bill was pass that requires airlines to provide cabin crew with a minimum 10-hour rest period between shifts, matching the requirement for pilots. The bill also included a requirement for cabin crew to be included in Fatigue Risk Management Systems, which until that point was only applied to pilots.
In Australia, there are currently no civil aviation regulations governing duty times and rest requirements for cabin crew. Their duty limitations are set contractually, and minimum standards are set by the country in which the cabin crew are employed. Cabin crew are our first responders to a safety event - is it time they are included in fatigue regulations?