7th July 2022

Fatigue from Rostering

Initial Report

Numerous fatigue reports

CAA Comment

CHIRP Comment

CHIRP has received a number of reports in recent months from crews in multiple airlines who tell us that they are regularly being rostered with fatiguing duties. Examples are short-haul rosters with multiple sectors on multiple successive days, or long-haul routes to West Coast USA or Far Eastern destinations with only one day’s stopover before return to UK, repeated 2-3 days later. In the latter case, the previous practice in some airlines of scheduling 3 Flight Crew members for such duties also seems to have been superseded by the use of only 2 Flight Crew members for some routes. The combination of these changes is claimed by reporters to be leaving crews chronically fatigued such that errors are being made due to weariness and loss of attention.

It is accepted that these reports represent only one side of the story but, due to their sensitive nature, we are limited in our ability to engage directly with the airlines concerned, even generically, in order to gain their perspective. The reports include specifics which cannot be disidentified for CHIRP publication, and the identifiable details meant that reporters fear that they could be at risk of sanctions from their companies as a result. Although receipt of one or two reports on this issue might be put down to individuals’ discontent with new rostering policies, the scale of the reporting that we are seeing indicates systemic problems with resourcing and rostering practices at some airlines that we felt should be urgently reviewed. As a result, CHIRP engaged with the CAA to pass on our concerns. The CAA’s response was that resourcing and rostering form part of their normal oversight of companies. They commented that resourcing has recently been a challenge for all parts of the industry, especially in the fast changing environment of the last few months. In response to CHIRP’s input, the CAA conducted targeted audits of subject airlines but, although they recognised areas of greatly increased tempo, resourcing challenges and rosters that could have been better planned, the oversight teams confirmed that the rosters they reviewed were all legal. Notwithstanding, the CAA informed us that, in all cases, rostering and fatigue were being kept under close and continuous review so that they could act if necessary. Following on from their reviews, the CAA commented that it had been acknowledged by some of the companies that their communications around changes to rostering practises could have been better.

Although technically legal, it is CHIRP’s view that regularly rostering close to the maximum allowable FDP/FTL rules is not a sensible long-term approach to sustainable operations. CHIRP previously represented this view to the CAA in 2020 (pre-pandemic), stating our concern even then that ‘Commercial pressure will continue to drive operators to regard EASA FTL numerical limits as an acceptable baseline for rostering…’ and also our concern about ‘…the reactive nature of FRM and operators’ apparent unwillingness to measure the adverse effects of their rostering…’.

Notwithstanding, and although clearly frustrating for those engaging in air travel, it is to be applauded that some operators have recently chosen to cancel parts of their schedules rather than attempt to maintain output in the face of too few resources and a consequent risk to safety. CHIRP is also aware that some of the companies concerned have since modified their rosters and scheduling parameters in response to analysis of the reports of fatigue that they have received. This demonstrates the value of fatigue reporting, and also that companies can be responsive to considered and reasoned arguments within. CHIRP is not the only organisation concerned about the potential risks from fatigue as resources potentially mismatch demand during post-pandemic recovery; BALPA’s Fatigue & Scheduling Group has recently launched a study into the prevalence of fatigue in the industry and have instigated a survey based on Karolinksa Sleepiness Scale (KSS) scores to which crews can contribute by searching for and downloading the Jeppeson ‘CrewAlert TOD’ app from their relevant app provider.

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