Pushing for an on-time departure, compromising safety

A massive push for on time departure. Feel like there is a blame culture for why crew don’t start boarding on time, with it being recorded on our files when it is out of our control. The timings are in a perfect world of everything running smoothly, I feel as a SCCM I’m rushing my checks to hound other people for theirs to pass on to the ground staff who wants us (from the company) to board 10 mins early.

I find myself shadowing crew members, mainly new crew or new to type of their checks as I’ll know I’ll get an email asking why the cabin was released 2 minutes late. It’s not good CRM to be going to my crew asking if they need help with their checks- it’s confusing to know what had been checked etc, they are their checks and AORs for a reason. We have to count everything, that takes time and new are just that NEW, they still don’t have a rhythm or routine. I feel awful having to keep asking as they rightfully take their time doing their checks. We all get to the aircraft at different times so I have no idea what checks have been done and by who, it there seems to be little or no time to get this done. As a SCCM, the last month or so has been the most stressful I’ve ever experienced flying, when in reality cabin crew are rarely the reason for flights not getting away on time. I feel the company are prioritising seconds and minutes over their crew being able to do their checks thoroughly and properly.


Company Comment

It is a fine balance between running a safe, secure and punctual operation in aviation – however, safety and security must never be compromised. As the reporter refers to, sometimes there will be extenuating factors, out of the control of the crew that could impact punctuality. The organisation’s focus on punctuality is no different to other UK and worldwide operators.  For reasons where crew feel pressurised to complete safety and security checks, a safety report should be completed documenting the occurrence if, for example there are pressures on the completion of safety and security checks with as much objective information as possible to help the safety and security teams understand the issue.

Communication is key between all crew and ground staff.  Concerns about pressure to board should be reported to the Captain, especially if safety and security checks are being compromised.

When cabin crew related delay reports are received, the cabin crew management and operations team are keen to learn the events and reasons that led to the flight not meeting its target time.  The cabin crew management and operations team were contacted and a copy of the email communication that is sent to crew was reviewed.  It states:

  • There is no obligation to reply on a day off.
  • The communication is not positioned as a performance issue.
  • The communication seeks to understand ‘what happened’ to allow a review of the process and prevent recurrence.

It also identifies if crew require support – there are no punitive actions associated with the follow up.

There are many factors that contribute to on-time performance, it’s important that as a team we continue to engage, learn and deliver improvement.

Action has already been implemented from the responses already received. The team have received many responses to date. So far, changes have been made to some report times for more challenging flights and at stations where there is a long transit time through the airport. These adjustments will help crew complete their pre-flight safety and security checks in the time provided.

CAA Comment

Pre-departure safety duties should never be deviated from in order to achieve on-time performance.  If errors occur or omissions made owing to actual or perceived pressure, these should be reported to the company using the occurrence reporting scheme.

Please do not allow yourself to be pressurised into not completing your safety checks properly. ‘Pressure’ is one of the most frequently reported key-issue safety concerns to CHIRP. Be it commercial pressure, time pressure and/or peer pressure whether the pressure is real or perceived, the results are frequently the same, in this reporters case it may have caused anxiety, a fear of something being missed and poor CRM. Passengers should not be boarding the aircraft until all the appropriate checks have been completed and the SCCM should have the confidence to say ‘no’ if the crew are not ready to board. The safety and security of the aircraft must come first.

If the passengers are late boarding the aircraft, or any other reason that may cause a delay (checks/baggage/PRM/catering etc) then it is important to document exactly why. Operators often need to contact crew for clarification on why a flight has been delayed and this is normally a standard communication that allows delays to be monitored and potentially improved by the management.