Mode Aviation
Reference No. AR201800045
Date reported 19 April 2018
Concern title Cabin crew fatigue
Concern summary

The concern related to fatigue of cabin crew operating the [Location] – Los Angeles pairing.

Industry / Operation affected Aviation: Air transport
Concern subject type Aviation: Policies & Procedures

Reporter's concern

The reporter has advised that rest time is inadequate due to extended working hours that have not been considered when calculating the scheduled rest time, including:

  • The service departing [Location] can be delayed, resulting in an increased length of duty.
  • The service has operated on several occasions with one (or more) less cabin crew member than rostered, resulting in increased workload and subsequent reduced rest time for remaining cabin crew members.
  • The reporter states that at most, crew members receive 2.5 hours rest time in the approximate 14 hour flight. The reporter further states that as the Boeing 787 is operated for this sector, turbulent conditions are felt more than on the larger Airbus A380 aircraft resulting in disturbed and interrupted sleep.
  • The scheduled 27 hours slip time in Los Angeles is calculated from approximately half an hour after the flight lands in Los Angeles, and whilst not technically on duty, cabin crew rest on slip is delayed further due to the aircraft regularly docking at a stand-off gate, congestion at border control and traffic en-route to the hotel, which is at best an additional 45 min journey from LAX. It is common that actual rest time available between sectors is reduced to less than 22 hours.

Operator's response (Operator 1)

[Operator] has a robust method for preventing, reporting, and managing Cabin Crew fatigue. Training programs and resources are available to educate crew on techniques to proactively and reactively manage fatigue, both on the ground and inflight. If required, any crew member is able to remove themselves from service, both before and during the flight, in order to manage fatigue levels. As part of the [Operator] Safety Management System, there is a functional group that identifies, assesses and advises on management of fatigue risks to cabin crew. The Cabin Fatigue Identification Panel feeds into our formal safety governance committees and is responsible for hazard identification, risk management, and developing strategies to manage fatigue for cabin crew.

All cabin crew patterns are built to meet the requirements of the applicable EBA, in the case of the [Location] -LAX-[Location] sectors the minimum planned rest requirement is 24 hours. There is an EBA provision that in cases of unplanned disruptions the rest may be reduced to 18 hours. The [flight numbers] pattern planned with a 27.05 hour slip has operated two to three times per week from pattern introduction on [date]. In this period the slip/rest time has not fallen below 24 hours.

Since March, the [flight number] has departed Australia three times with less than the standard cabin crew complement of 10. In these instances, the complements were; 9 crew on [date], 8 crew on [date], and 8 crew on [date].  On each of these flights, the on-board service was adjusted to minimise impact on the cabin crew, as is the standard practise when operating with less than the rostered crew complement.

Regulator's response (Regulator 1)

The REPCON does not indicate that there has been a regulatory breach with regard to the minimum cabin crew complement required for the aircraft type.

In relation to fatigue matters, there are currently no regulations governing duty times and rest requirements for cabin crew. [Operator’s] cabin crew duty limitations are set contractually. While it is reasonable to expect an increased likelihood of fatigue when a multi-sector duty is extended or when there is a reduction in cabin crew number, the reporter provided insufficient information to assess the operational safety risks associated with the reported fatigue. For example, factors such as time of day, number of sectors, total duty time, recent sleep history, crew complement, availability of on-board rest will have a bearing on the degree of influence and significance of fatigue on work performance. Please refer to Appendix A.

Matters regarding cabin crew fatigue are informed by [Operator’s] Fatigue Risk Management Policy and are managed through the organisation’s Risk Action Group, within the airline’s Safety Management System (SMS). The reporter is encouraged to submit a safety report through the operator’s SMS. The operator is obliged to consider the content of such reports in the context of the safety of the operation.

CASA conducts audits of the effectiveness of an operator’s SMS. The information provided in the REPCON may be used to inform the next planned audit of [Operator’s] cabin crew fatigue management policies and procedures.

Appendix A:

The reporter has advised that service departing [Location] can be delayed resulting in an increased length of duty.

The complainant is noting the possibility of a delay without providing any specific times for the delay and/or subsequent increased duty.

They advised that service has operated on several occasions with one (or more) less cabin crew member than rostered, resulting in increased workload and subsequent reduced rest time for remaining cabin crew members.

There is insufficient information provided to understand the extent by which workload was increased and the quantum of the impact on the rest time of the other cabin crew. The ratio of crew to passengers, the extra time (e.g., 20 minutes longer for dinner service.), and the specific reduction in rest time allowed/offered is required for an informed response. There is also an absence of detail regarding how being fatigued impacted the individual in the performance of their duties or their ability to function post flight. There are a number of cognitive functions and behavioural actions where fatigue manifests itself that are not being reported as having occurred.

The reporter advised that at most, crew members receive 2.5 hours rest time in the approximate 14-hour flight. The reporter further states, that as the [aircraft type] is operated for this sector, turbulent conditions are felt more than on the larger [aircraft type] aircraft resulting in disturbed and interrupted sleep.

While the reporter is asserting that there was a maximum rest period of 2.5 hours this does not factor in meals or other breaks. Turbulence is a factor that is out of the control of [Operator]. Again, the reporter needs to detail how poor or no sleep impacts their ability to carry out their assigned duties or impairs their personal circumstance.

27 hours slip time in Los Angeles is calculated from approximately half an hour after the flight lands in Los Angeles, and whilst not technically on duty, cabin crew rest on slip is delayed further due to the aircraft regularly docking at a stand-off gate, congestion at border control and traffic en-route to the hotel, which is at best an additional 45 min journey from LAX. It is common that actual rest time available between sectors is reduced to less than 22 hours.

As with the previous 3 points, there is no direct and detailed evidence provided by the reporter (For example: On the 3rd of Dec, the landing was at X time, the immigration control took X minutes, the traffic to the hotel and check in took X minutes that resulted in a possible rest period of X hours) as a result the report is mostly conjecture). If there is a consistent negative impact arising from the extended travel time to the hotel, no possible solutions can be engaged unless there is documented supporting evidence. As in the case where hotel rooms are inadequate for rest (due to no air conditioning or noise from traffic or construction), the travel time to a hotel needs to be recorded to provide justification.

[Operator] has a robust method for preventing, reporting, and managing cabin crew fatigue.  Training programs and resources are available to educate crew on techniques to proactively and  reactively manage fatigue, both on the ground and inflight.

An outcome of fatigue-related training is that it can provide an individual the ability to recognise when fatigue is affecting one’s self or others. The ability / awareness to detect the onset of fatigue would assist staff in their understanding of how being fatigued influences their thoughts and behaviours. If they had such knowledge, they would be able to communicate more effectively the impact that potential “workload” or “degraded rest” had on their inflight performance or after-flight well-being. If these types of elements are already present in the current training, there may be a need for reinforcement or recurrent exposure to enhance the knowledge and understanding of cabin crew.

Last update 05 August 2019