Mode Aviation
Reference No. AR201800024
Date reported 24 February 2018
Concern title Cabin crew fatigue
Concern summary

The concern related to fatigue of New Zealand based cabin crew operating the Sydney - [Location 1] pairing.

Industry / Operation affected Aviation: Air transport
Concern subject type Aviation: Cabin safety

Reporter's concern

The reporter has expressed a safety concern regarding fatigue of New Zealand based [operator] cabin crew operating the [operator 2] Sydney ‐ [Location 1] pairing. The reporter has advised that on occasion crew may be placed on standby at 0400 local time to passenger the Auckland to Sydney sector followed by operating the Sydney to [Location 1] sector. The total duty time is 17 hours 10 minutes, assuming no delays. Although classed as Ultra Long Range, only 24 hours and 30 minutes rest, which includes travel time to/from the airport and accommodation is rostered, with crew operating the return sector, totalling 16 hours and 20 minutes the following day. The reporter advises that the ‘horizontal rest time’ achieved on board the Sydney – [Location 1] sector is typically not more than 90 minutes.

The reporter has advised that prior to the duty, cabin crew usually encounter a restless sleep before this sector, due to being on call and half expecting to be woken and that cabin crew are often extremely tired by the time they reach [Location 1] after being awake for approximately 20 hours.

The reporter has advised that when cabin crew operate the Sydney to [Location 2] sector, which is 17 h 15 m planned (5 minutes longer than the Auckland – [Location 1] duty) with an afternoon sign‐on, there is a minimum rest requirement of 50 hours due to a special arrangement specific to [Location 2] sectors. This is more than double the rest time received in [Location 1] after the same duty length as the [Location 2] sector.

The reporter has asked whether consideration has been/can be given to rostering more rest time in [Location 1] or utilising Australian-based cabin crew on standby for the Sydney‐[Location 1] sector.

Operator's response (Operator 1)

The report addresses a work duty experienced by a [operator] international cabin crew member.

These crew are employed and reside in New Zealand but are managed by the [operator 2] cabin crew scheduling team in Australia.

Some additional information regarding these patterns that was not included in the REPCON is below:

  • Standby for an AKL crew member is not at the airport, it is at home.
  • The flying is primarily front of clock flying based on the home port time zone.
  • Transport to and from home is available both ways for this unplanned pattern.
  • There are no planned patterns aligning with the one that is mentioned in the report – they are only utilised during a disruption or to cover illness and crew shortages.
  • This is not a common occurrence – our crewing team have confirmed that this type of duty has only occurred on a few occasions.
  • [Location 1] sectors are not considered ultra-long range. This term is reserved for flight times over approximately 16-17 hours.
  • The crew are not required to operate on either of the Tasman sectors – they will always passenger on both these sectors, allowing a significant rest period.
  • The [Location 2] sectors mentioned are BOTC (back of the clock) flying, ultra-long range and the sleep patterns do not align easily with the crew members natural circadian rhythms. Hence the requirement for the longer slip time in port.

We are currently running the duty through our heat mapping process to provide some validated data regarding the duty.

Regulator's response (Regulator 1)

CASA has reviewed the REPCON and notes that there are currently no Australian civil aviation regulations governing duty times and rest requirements for cabin crew.  Nevertheless, CASA makes the following observations regarding the REPCON and the operator’s response:

The reporter has advised that “on occasion” crew may be placed on standby at 0400 local time.

The start time the reporter notes is during the window of circadian low (WOCL), and there may be a greater experience of sleep inertia, but there are no stated performance demands during the “passenger” flight from Auckland to Sydney. It is unclear as to the potential negative impact of the 0400-start time as no associated detriment to behaviour or cognitive capability is reported

They advised that the total duty time is 17 hrs and 10 minutes without delays.

The 0400 to 2110-time line does not separate the times for the Auckland to Sydney, Sydney stop over, and Sydney to [Location 1] actual sector timings and sleep/rest opportunities. This makes it difficult to ascertain if there are opportunities for rest during any one of these sectors

Rest time on the Sydney to [Location 1] sector is typically not more the 90 minutes.

While the reporter is attempting to highlight that a 17 hour and 10-minute duty period has only a 90-minute rest period, the statement is vague since the term typically indicates that there are times when more or less rest is achieved. It also does not indicate the actual time provided for rest/sleep.

Comparison of the rest times of the Sydney to [Location 2] sector with the Sydney to [Location 1] Sector.

While the “duty time” stated for the Auckland to Sydney, Sydney to [Location 1] is equivalent to the Sydney to [Location 2] sector, the work requirements are not. Being a “passenger” on the Auckland to Sydney sector is not the same as actively working since there is no requirement to be out of the seat and engaged in duties.

Additional information provided by [Operator 2]

The additional information provided follows world’s best practice to minimise the potential for and the negative impact from fatigue. The only area that is vague is the response discussing the occurrence of this type of crewing requirement. That is, the statements “not a common” or “on a few occasions” could be reasonably expected to be supported by the actual numbers for a quarter or half year.

Finally, if sampling of fatigue has/does occur with cabin crew on the sector in question this should also have been mentioned as either a work in progress or a known result. Accordingly, this has led to a reasonable assumption that such activity has not been attempted (rightly or wrongly).

ATSB comment

The reporter provided the following comments:

I’m deflated by the response from both the operator and the regulator. Disappointingly, these scenarios have now significantly increased in the past month.

We are trying hard to encourage fatigue reporting from our crew who operate these arduous duties in the hope that these duties will be red flagged.

Last update 05 August 2019