Fit to Fly?
It’s not only passengers who can become unwell in the air.
A high proportion of in-flight emergencies are medical related and passengers sometimes fly with medical conditions without informing the airline or checking if they are fit to fly. Whether intentionally or not, this could be because passengers may not appreciate the susceptibility of their condition in the cabin environment at altitude i.e. the effects that flying can have on their body. Certain medical conditions may not tolerate the changes in cabin pressure on board the aircraft. Flight times, time zone changes and the associated ‘jet lag’ feeling may aggravate their medical condition if medication schedules and usual meal times are disrupted. Any one of these factors could contribute to a medical incident on board.
Occasionally cabin crew also become unwell during a flight, cabin crew are human too! If you feel unwell, please inform one of your crew members as soon as possible. Remember that cabin crew first aid training doesn’t just apply to passengers, but to crew as well.
As part of the recruitment stages and prior to cabin crew starting to fly, all UK airlines require a medical to be passed. Pre-existing conditions must be declared, as must any prescribed medications and any illnesses/medical procedures within a certain time period. This not only meets the requirements of the airline but also the Regulator. When you report for a duty, you are confirming that you are fit to operate. It is a crew members responsibility to advise your operator if you suffer from a deterioration in your medical fitness. Remember, the role of cabin crew is a safety critical role.
The CAA stipulate in MED.A.020 Decrease in medical fitness:
Cabin crew members shall not perform duties on an aircraft and, where applicable, shall not exercise the privileges of their cabin crew attestation when they are aware of any decrease in their medical fitness, to the extent that this condition might render them unable to discharge their safety duties and responsibilities.
It is usual practice across all industries for sickness and absence days to be closely monitored. Airlines will have different sickness and absence policies in place, and these will be specified within your terms and conditions. The monitoring of sick days is to be expected but it should be recognised within the company that those who fly have more stringent requirements only to operate when fit to do so, whereas working with blocked ears or sinuses might be ok in an office job, it is not ok in the flying environment and could make an illness worse. CHIRP do not investigate reports that involve industrial relations, terms and conditions of employment or personality-based conflicts.
The implications of operating as a cabin crew member when unfit to do so are clear and a safety concern for everyone on board as well as for your own health. A pre-existing illness or injury could be exacerbated and your ability to perform the safety critical role (at any stage of flight) of cabin crew could also be affected. When you report for a duty, you are confirming that you are fully fit, rested and able to complete all duties and requirements during the subsequent period of your duty, it is important for the safety of all onboard (and yourself) that this is the case. Inevitably some crew will have operated sectors when they shouldn’t have: blocked ears, an upset stomach, toothache and even appendicitis; these are all symptoms of conditions that are amplified at altitude. Please also remember that cabin crew are food handlers and gastroenteritis-related illnesses are communicable to others, even when you are might feel you are clear of symptoms, follow your companies’ procedures.
In the event of a crew member becoming incapacitated during the flight review your operations manual. ‘Incapacitation’ means a sudden degradation of medical fitness that occurs during flight duty period either in-flight or during a flight transit of the same flight duty period away from operator’s base that prevents any cabin crew member from performing their duties.
in unforeseen circumstances and/or when down route, if the number of cabin crew members is reduced below the applicable legal minimum required number, there may be procedures in place that require the passengers to be moved for landing or offloaded. There could also be procedures to permit the flight to operate back to base with a reduced crew complement. If this is the case the Regulator is notified via a Mandatory Occurrence Report (MOR). Effective communication during any flight is essential, for some operators, passengers may need to be accommodated in specific seats for trim requirements, therefore any seat movements in this instance will need to be authorised by the flight crew. Medical assistance might also be required once the aircraft has landed.
Jennifer Curran, CHIRP Cabin Crew Programme Manager
Latest CHIRP Cabin Crew Statistics
CHIRP has received 89 confidential cabin crew safety reports in the first quarter of 2023. Of these, 27% reports were not reported internally to the operator. As CHIRP frequently advises, reporting internally helps an operator identify and monitor trends and put mitigations in place. CHIRP is completely independent from both operators and the Regulator. The only people who have access to your confidential reports are the CHIRP team. This is why it is important, that you report any safety concerns to your operator as well as to CHIRP. Your operator may also have an internal confidential reporting policy as well.
The top 3 cabin crew Key Issues reported to CHIRP in this first quarter of 2023 were relating to Duty, Fatigue and Pressures/Goals. These high-level Key Issues were further sub-classified into detailed factors as shown in the outer ring of the illustration below.
Every report that CHIRP receives is triaged and coded into specific categories, the coding of each report allows the data to be used for trend monitoring. CHIRP codes each report using both the ICAO Accident/Incident Data Reporting (ADREP) taxonomy as well as a CHIRP-specific Human Factors ‘Key Issues’ taxonomy. The ICAO Accident/Incident Data Reporting (ADREP) system is based on the ADREP taxonomy.
Some reports are investigated further and with the reporter’s permission 3rd party communications may take place, such as with the operator or the CAA. Please be assured CHIRP never shares the reporters details with anyone, your personal data is secure and confidential.
In Memoriam: Peter Tait, Chief Executive of CHIRP 1995-2013
CHIRP is sad to report that Peter Tait, Chief Executive of CHIRP over the period 1995-2013, recently passed away. After a distinguished career that embraced RAF pilot, test pilot,
display pilot and senior positions in commercial aviation and aerospace, Peter guided CHIRP as it expanded from being solely a conduit for Flight Crew/ATCO reporting to include Cabin Crew, Engineers, General Aviation and Maritime. His leadership of the CHIRP team and its contribution to aviation safety received International recognition in 2013 from the International Federation of Airworthiness who awarded CHIRP the Whittle Safety Award “In recognition of their contribution to aviation safety, through the development of a confidential reporting programme on human performance issues and concerns. An addition to formal reporting systems within the United Kingdom, the programme covers all aviation related sectors and disciplines.” The CHIRP team would like to offer Peter’s family our deepest and most sincere condolences.
COMMENTS ON PREVIOUS FEEDBACKS
Here at CHIRP we very much value your inputs and comments, positive or otherwise. We recognise that there is always room for improvement, and we want to ensure that we are giving you valuable content to support and enhance safety. Please do get in touch at email@example.com and let us know what you think about this edition, or anything else (that’s safety related). The below comments were received from readers of CHIRP Air Transport FEEDBACK Edition 144. To read this edition in full, click here https://chirp.co.uk/category/aviation/airtransport/
COMMENTS ON PREVIOUS AIR TRANSPORT FEEDBACKS
Comment No 1 – Living with COVID
I refer to your comments concerning positive Covid tests [Air Transport FEEDBACK Edition 144]. This needs some further explanation. There is no reason why you should not attend work having produced a positive outcome with a SARSCoV-2 rapid test. It is really a matter whether the person involved has symptoms that are incapacitating or likely to be incapacitating. In terms of coming to work with a positive test this is a cultural and social issue. You should not lose sight of the fact at the present time the infection rate is currently 1 per 35 persons in England and increasing so it is highly likely that you are already in contact with an infected person. We are going to have to learn to live with Covid along with the Influenza/Respiratory Syncytial virus.
This comment again refers to the editorial where one of the quoted sickness reports mentioned that a Cabin Crew member had stayed away from work due to
testing positive for COVID and had lost pay as a result. The background to this report was that it was received in early summer and, whilst we don’t know what the specific date
of the Cabin Crew’s reported comments was, perhaps they were at a time when they were required by their particular company to stay away from work. Whether they were actually suffering from symptoms of COVID is unknown by us, and individual airlines have differing policies, but the underlying regulatory requirement is to stay away from work if suffering from symptoms that make you unfit to fly. The thrust of the editorial was to highlight company sickness policies and this particular COVID comment was just part of a
wider piece about inconsistencies in the way that sickness and absence are being handled by companies. We hope that the comment about COVID didn’t detract from that particular aim.
Comment No 2 – Pronouns
The pronoun “they” was used to refer to the captain several times in your response to a report [Air Transport FEEDBACK Edition 144, Report No 8 (FC5219)]. In one instance it was used when talking about the captain in a verbal dispute with cabin crew members. It was difficult to understand who was talking to whom. Please cease this politically correct idiocy and continue to use correct English. The use of “they” in this way is grammatically incorrect and potentially confusing. As you are no doubt aware it is also encouraged by the current gender hysteria. Why not simply continue to use the word Captain?
We use ‘they’ as a deliberate policy to assist in protecting confidentiality. Many small airlines have few female captains for example and so if we used ‘she’ then it could narrow down the field if someone was familiar with the circumstances. Or it may be that the reporter does identify as gender neutral which we should respect. Repetitive use of ‘the Captain’ or other titles can become stilted in reported speech so we’ll continue to also use ‘they’ in reports where appropriate but it’s a fair point that we need to make sure that in doing so we do not detract from the ability to understand the report itself.
Bullying, Harassment, Discrimination and Victimisation
The CHIRP Aviation Programme also provides a facility for confidential reporting of Bullying, Harassment, Discrimination and Victimisation (BHDV) where there is an identifiable safety related concern. CHIRP has no specific expertise or resources to investigate BHDV reports. CHIRP’s role is to aggregate data to build a picture of the prevalence of BHDV in the aviation sector. See our BHDV page on the CHIRP website for further information. CHIRP’s role in BHDV.
CC6004 – Too much hand luggage
Too much hand luggage
Flight was completely full, 3 cabin crew onboard, 1 was inexperienced. Flight was already circa 90 mins late.
Overhead lockers filled up very quickly, we made several PA’s to try and ensure customers stowed their bags as requested.
When last customer boarded, we still had about 5 cases to stow, so I asked one crew member (inexperienced crew) to go into the cabin and try to make space. No1 & No2 should remain at doors for door coverage. Ground staff stand at the door and wait for me to decide if we need offload bags or not. But I have to stay by the open door, so I have to try and guess from where I’m stood. If I say we need to keep the door open, but in the end we don’t need to offload any bags, then the delay comes down to me and I’ll be “managed” accordingly. So there is pressure from the company not to incur a delay. So I tell them to close the door.
At one point, all 3 of the crew were in the cabin trying to sort the hand luggage, so there would have been no door coverage at all. We managed to stow all the cabin bags that were in the aisle. Once we push and complete the demo and start securing, we find another wheelie case that a customer was hiding behind their legs and 2 large back packs in the exit rows that customers had kept behind their legs. We added the wheelie to the wardrobe which was now completely full and we had to stuff the backpacks into the locker.
Boarding is a busy time for cabin crew and we understand the reporters’ concerns. Being proactive by monitoring overhead lockers, the organisation of them and regular communications using cabin announcements will help our customers make the best use of the approved stowage areas around them. Cabin crew supervision of the cabin, as far as reasonably practicable and in line with our safety procedures should help direct our customers where to place larger and smaller items of carry-on luggage making use of the under seat stowage (approved rows) and correct placement in the overhead locker. As well as being present in the cabin, communication (face-to-face, interphone) is key between colleagues and customers, the SCCM is kept up to date in the event of baggage offload. The SCCM should also inform the flight crew if they require their support if they are being pressurised by ground teams and a cabin safety report would need to be completed. There has been an influx of cabin crew joining and whilst our flights are operated in accordance with the required crew levels including experience, newer, inexperienced crew will require support, coaching and on the job learning to build their knowledge and experience. If the crew determine that they need to rearrange items in an overhead locker, please be mindful of manual handling if crew need to reorganise items in the overhead locker. We encourage safety reporting to help us build a picture of the operational day to look for trends.
Regulatory requirements stipulate that an operator shall establish procedures to ensure only hand baggage that can be adequately and securely stowed is taken into the passenger compartment. If excessive quantities of hand baggage are being taken into the aircraft cabin it suggests either the operator’s procedure is not effective or is not being followed. Cabin crew should not be pressured to close the aircraft doors until they are satisfied that all baggage can be properly stowed and will not requiring off-loading to the aircraft hold.
Hand baggage issues vary massively between operator’s. Regarding this operator, CHIRP continues to receive reports that this is an ongoing issue, with one reporter claiming to have recently off-loaded 30 bags. Please continue to report these occasions internally for every sector that this continues to be an issue on, if you can and your operator has the process to receive photos, take photos of the excessive baggage, this might help the operator address potential safety concerns with the ground handling team.
CHIRP appreciates that sometimes it can feel as though you are not being listened to when you submit a safety report to your company, however this is not the case, reports must be received for operator’s to trend which routes specifically this is still an issue on, if crew stop reporting then there is the potential for an operator to conclude that this is no longer an issue. We would encourage you to seek feedback on an issue if you haven’t had a response, in line with your company safety reporting procedures. CHIRP recognise that there are commercial pressures for an on-time departure and that the crew can occasionally find themselves in an almost impossible situation; please communicate with the ground staff and the flight crew regarding the excess baggage to ensure that safety is not compromised.
CC5763 – Tech issue with Aircraft.
Tech issue with Aircraft.
There has been an ongoing technical issue with the [Aircraft Type and Registration] for a while and the engineers don’t know what’s wrong but no one’s investigating the issues that keep happening and the aircraft is still operating. It’s now stuck in [Location 1] with the same issues that have been going on for weeks. Crew are worried about flying on it.
I have been flying on the aircraft [Registration] for many months and there is a problem with engine no.2 and other issues. I had a high speed rejected take off in [Location 2] earlier in the year (a lot seems something to do with feathering I think) Also it had an oil pressure and fuel leak a few weeks ago. We were flying with an engineer onboard for weeks to erase a constant fault that would have grounded the plane as soon as we were away from an engineering base.
I don’t have access to engineering or maintenance managers etc. I know myself and a few other colleagues don’t feel safe flying on this aircraft. I’ve also heard that the company has requested that minimum money is spent on maintenance of the aircrafts which is concerning and things don’t get fixed because it will cost money.
There is currently an issue with pressurisation on the other [Aircraft Type and Registration] we were meant to be working on so ended up working on [Registration] which had an engine fire indicator a few days ago and the cabin crew who were on it reported a burning smell in the cabin. It was on the ground. Something to do with engine 2 in hotel mode and the wind blowing the heat back into the engine? But I heard it caused the other engine to show the fire indicator.
This report was active for several months and the CAA were contacted with the reporters’ permission. The CAA responded with comprehensive feedback which showed the aircraft maintenance records were scrutinised for the periods detailed in the report. The CAA found that maintenance had been carried out in accordance with all applicable requirements. They also said that they will take account of the issues raised in the CHIRP report, during audits already scheduled for the summer.
The Master Minimum Equipment List (MMEL) is a document, developed by the manufacturer and approved by the State of Design, that lists the equipment which may be inoperative at the commencement of flight without affecting safe operation of the aircraft. Operators then produce their own Minimum Equipment List (MEL) but, if this differs from the MMEL, it may only be via the inclusion of more restrictive limitations. In the event of any defects being notified or arising before take-off, the Commander must review them against the MEL to ensure the aircraft can still be safely dispatched. The continued operation of an aircraft with permitted defects should always be minimised, though mitigations or alternative measures may be put in place until maintenance action can clear the problem.
For more information about a defect when onboard ask your flight crew or an engineer. If something doesn’t feel, look or sound right, it is important communicate this to your colleagues, no matter how small.
CC6113 – Working During Rest Periods on Layovers Down-route
Working During Rest Periods on Layovers Down-route
Recently, it has become apparent that some crew appear to be undertaking voluntary work for charities whilst down route. The individual(s) concerned have posted on forums about undertaking unpaid charity work at various hours of the day and night, apparently when on company time during rest periods on layovers. It concerns me that crew are using time when they should be resting in order to perform this kind of work and I’m concerned as to whether it is even legal. The company itself appears to be doing nothing to discourage this. The admirable intentions of the individual(s) concerned are, of course, completely understandable. However, I would not feel happy performing safety related duties on the way home with somebody who I knew could potentially be fatigued due to working when they should have been resting. Could CHIRP comment onto the legalities of this? Is it simply the case that it doesn’t matter as long as the individual says they are well rested, or are there any CAA rules around this?
There are no regulations regarding what a crew member can or can’t do whilst down-route, the only requirement is that they report rested for duty and that they make good use of the rest facilities provided, our operations manual states the following:
(3) The crew member shall not perform duties on an aircraft if he/she knows or suspects that he/she is suffering from fatigue or feels otherwise unfit to the extent that the flight may be endangered.
(4) Make optimum use of the opportunities and facilities for rest provided and plan and use their rest properly.
Cabin Crew Management have confirmed that there are no other formal rules around down-route activities/rest periods.
The operator’s should be looking at this on a case-by-case basis. Down-route is a rest period that should be managed responsibly by the crew members.
The effects of fatigue and an individual’s susceptibility to it are not an exact science, it is up to the crew member to manage their rest and understand that they have a responsibility to ensure adequate rest is achieved prior to their duty. Some crew do a 10k run to relax and wind-down, whereas some crew may find a 10k run fatiguing. It is important to be aware of sleep deprivation, accumulative fatigue and the circadian rhythm. Flight time limitations (FTLs) are designed to allow a crew member to have a suitable amount rest prior to their duty, sleep deprivation, accumulative fatigue and the circadian rhythm feature heavily when these limitations are calculated. Crew member fatigue is now acknowledged as a hazard that predictably degrades various types of human performance and can contribute to aviation accidents and incidents. Whether at home or down route remember, it’s an individual’s responsibility to report for their duty fit to operate.
CC6132 – Pre-Flight Notices to read
Pre-Flight Notices to read
Many times before my briefing I have several notices to read and acknowledge, this is before I report for my duty. We are allocated 10 minutes to “read these notices”. Last week I had a 7 notices, including two videos which combined took nearly 30 minutes just for the videos.
I had to do all these notices on my day off and I nearly always have to do these notices in my own time. The 10 minutes which we are given isn’t sufficient.
Pre device times, we used to have a note book, which we would quickly check before our briefing. These notices were easier and quicker to read. There were less notices too. The number of notices we get now have shot up in comparison. I believe the company should put more time aside, especially when we get notices which will clearly take over 10 minutes to read pre briefing.
The issue of Notices has been raised previously with Cabin Management who advised that non-safety Notices were in the process of being stripped out to ensure only Safety-related SEP notices requiring confirmation of read/receipt are issued, this appears to be a work in progress. The CAA are also on the distribution list of every Cabin Notice that is issued and are aware of these, including quantity issued and time required to read/acknowledge them.
The introduction of a new aircraft type identified some significant differences and, as a duty of care, we filmed a manual handling video to assist crew to adopt the tasks required (including CPR in the seat) and to avoid injury to our cabin crew. Unfortunately, Safety were not given much time to visit the aircraft and create and issue the video. The Union H&S Reps were made aware of this, as were Cabin Management.
Crew notices are expected to be read; this is sometimes pre-flight. The crew members would usually be able to read these notices on standby or during a duty period. If this was becoming more burdensome on the crew, we would have to have a look at the operator’s practices more closely.
This operator allocates 10 minutes prior to a duty for their crew to read their notices, many operator’s do not allocate any specific time. As with many roles there is an element of keeping one’s self up to date with changing policies and procedures, especially when they are safety critical.
UK (EU) Reg No 965/2012 (Air Ops) – CAT.GEN.MPA.100 Crew responsibilities
(a) The crew member shall be responsible for the proper execution of his or her duties that are:
(1) related to the safety of the aircraft and its occupants; and
(2) specified in the instructions and procedures in the operations manual.
There are some notices that require attention prior to a flight, there are others that can be read at leisure – this will depend on your operator’s procedures. From a safety standpoint it is best not to dilute safety-related notices with service-related notices; some operator’s use a coding system, such as red/amber/green, to make the cabin crew aware of the significance of each notice.
CC6147 – CRM
Aircraft was delayed due to tech issue and crew met in hotel lobby later than planned. New first officer joined crew, wasn’t new to the company, had 3 stripes. A short pre-flight briefing was given by the captain but neither introduced the joining first officer to the crew. On board the joining first officer did not introduce himself to the crew.
Crew were concerned that if officials boarded the aircraft as sometimes happens or if there was an emergency they would not even know the first officers name. We are taught the importance of CRM in annual training and this is routine in our day to day operations. No CRM was offered on this day.
I asked 10 of the crew if they knew the first officers name or if they had been introduced. Only one did, they said they had approached the first officer and introduced themself in the hotel lobby.
I raised my concerns with the SCCM and asked them to address this. They said they wouldn’t as the flight crew had enough to deal with due to the technical issues with the aircraft and that they didn’t want to worry them when they had a plane to land 8 hours later.
They had ample time on the transport to the airport, and ample time during the delayed transit and the flight to introduce themself to the crew but chose not to. I also saw them in the galley at one stage. They made no effort to even talk let alone introduce themself.
Crew resource management (CRM) is underpinned by two-way communication between flight and cabin crew. It was unfortunate that on this duty it appears the “two-way communication” piece was not met. Our response is based on a down route scenario as the reporter referenced a ‘hotel lobby’. We would expect the flight crew (whether new joiners or not, the same applies to cabin crew) to interact with the cabin crew during the inbound briefing, if they did not, then there may have been an opportunity to introduce the flight crew and the colleague joining the trip once the SCCM had finished their briefing typically delivered on the crew transport to the airport. If the SCCM missed referring to the new flight crew member joining, another crew member could have reminded the SCCM at the end of the inbound brief. If there was not an opportunity to complete the inbound briefing on the crew transport and this had been completed in in the hotel lobby or on the aircraft, then there may have been other opportunities to interact with the joining colleague such as a visit to the flight deck, use of the passenger address or request the cabin crew to visit the flight deck prior to boarding to introduce themselves. Where colleagues feel that safety or crew resource management had been compromised, completion of a safety report is required for trending and feedback. To reassure the reporter, there is no regulation which stipulates that cabin crew must know the flight crews’ names, however it is best practice when it comes to ‘team forming’ and CRM, all cabin crew have access to the flight information which includes all of the crew names to refer to if needed, during their duty.
Good practice not followed and good CRM is not being demonstrated.
Communication is a process by which information is exchanged between individuals and communication, as always works both ways. There are many reasons why an introduction may have been missed, however it is never too late for anyone to take the first step to introduce themselves.