flydubai has denied reports by British newspaper, The Guardian, that its pilots are being forced to work hours that go beyond legal boundaries.
The paper claimed to have seen leaked documents suggesting pilots flying for the Dubai-based low-cost carrier were pushed too hard and struggled to recover from tough flight schedules.
More than 400 air safety reports written by flydubai pilots in March and April were seen by The Guardian, it claimed. The reports included a pilot forgetting to disengage an aircraft’s handbrake during take-off.
The report said one pilot felt he was being made to work hours that were illegal, while another said he had been under “extreme pressure” since the airline’s 19 March crash in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.
A flydubai spokesperson said in a statement that the airline conforms to all civil aviation safety regulations.
“We are aware of the article that has been published in The Guardian newspaper,” the airline told Arabian Business in a statement. “As set out in our response to them, flydubai confirms that it rigorously adheres to all regulations set out by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and operates to the highest standards.”
In a reply to The Guardian’s damning article, flydubai said the following:
“As part of our transparent reporting environment we investigate each of these air safety reports (ASRs) to conclusion to understand if they have any operational irregularities and any safety implications.
“Policy towards fatigue: Flydubai’s policy towards fatigue is designed openly and proactively to report fatigue prior to operating the planned roster. The framework and mechanisms in place provide a blame free structure for crew to self-report when they do not feel fit to fly.
“There is a ‘no blame’ culture associated with reporting fatigue. The policy is designed to monitor occurrences of fatigue, to identify trends and give supportive evidence to the Crew Scheduling and Safety Departments. We strictly follow authorised Flight Time Limitations (FTL) as set by the regulator in compiling duty rosters, with special attention paid to the variables which affect our crews including report times, previous duty and the number of days off.
“Rest periods are optimised taking into account circadian rhythm changes. A minimum of eight days off are allocated in each calendar month in line with regulations. This is in addition to 42 days of leave for flight crew and 30 days leave for cabin crew.
“Discretion to extend a Flight Duty Period (FDP): If a planned operation is delayed and the operating crew will consequently exceed the FDP the captain has discretion to extend the duty period by a maximum of 3 hours on the final sector. Under no circumstances, except in emergency situations, is the captain able to extend the FDP beyond 3 hours.
“The captain must be satisfied that the flight can be made safely and with due consideration to the other members of the crew. Only the captain can make the decision as to whether this discretionary increase in flight duty time is appropriate.
“On average discretion is exercised on 1.58% of duty periods across the network. Safety Management System (SMS): The SMS is designed to facilitate the reporting, tracking and subsequent management of safety related cases.
“In an open, transparent and confidential way staff are encouraged to report all instances that they believe may have safety related consequences. Every report raised is reviewed by the safety department, relevant departments are asked to contribute information, and, where required under regulation, escalated and referred to the GCAA.
“Flydubai’s management team work with the GCAA who audit the SMS system to ensure that it meets the highest internationals standards. Concerns around rostering and fatigue have been raised as part of the open safety reporting mechanism and however small the proportion we take them all equally seriously. Any pilot who feels too tired to fly can immediately withdraw from duty without any disciplinary consequence.
“Secondly, the decision to exercise discretion rests with the captain. Thirdly, a fatigue committee exists to address all issues of tiredness and, where necessary, elevate any such concerns to senior management.
“Finally, if any of our pilots have any worries or grievances, there are a number of forums and avenues available to them to raise those problems including regular pilot meetings, the professional standards committee, our human resources team and, of course, formally report in line with our SMS.
“Flydubai has never and would never ask its crew to operate outside legally permitted hours. All flights are planned within legal limits.
“The morale and wellbeing of all our staff inside and outside the cockpit is an essential priority for our management teams.
“Flydubai regularly conducts confidential employee climate surveys amongst its 3,348 employees, the majority of whom are flight deck and cabin crew.
“The survey in 2015 recorded a response rate of 73% with 84% of staff saying that they were proud to work for Flydubai.
“After the results were shared with employees, Flydubai set up working groups to hear directly on specific issues from staff at all levels. These groups are currently reviewing the findings and prioritising appropriate management action.
“Our SMS entails that ASRs are discussed with senior management team and, where applicable, these discussions are reported to the GCAA.
“The welfare of our crew is of the utmost importance and we provide formal and informal support mechanisms.
“Formally, Flydubai’s SMS sets out a clear and defined process for the reporting of all safety related occurrences. This includes support from HR, the line manager and referral to the Aeromedical Examiner (AME). In addition, Flydubai provides comprehensive private medical insurance for all its employees’ wellbeing.
“Informally, peer-to-peer mentoring is available through the professional standards committee, supported by the safety department. This encourages open discussion, insights and learning from the experiences of others. In the aftermath of the accident [in March], counselling was also made available to all Flydubai employees.”