Virgin Atlantic pilots are tired and overworked, according to a survey by the UK’s pilots union, with over three quarters of the airline’s pilots saying they had flown with a tired colleague who was “clearly not fit to fly”.
Over 88 per cent of the 900 pilots surveyed by British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) had seen a fellow pilot make a mistake due to fatigue.
In the leaked survey, reported by LBC, 80 per cent of Virgin pilots said their mental health had suffered after annual flying hours increased by 20 per cent since the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a memo sent to members, also reported by LBC, the union said that there is “a genuine safety risk presented by cumulative fatiguing flights”.
Speaking anonymously, one pilot told the radio station: “We are not asking for more money, we are asking for a roster which allows us to be safe. No passenger would want to fly with a pilot who is suffering with fatigue.”
The survey comes as after Virgin pilots, who are members of BALPA, voted to be formally balloted for a strike action.
Responding to the leaked survey, a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “The health, safety and security of our people and customers is our number one priority. We operate a comprehensive, data driven, Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) with regulatory oversight, operating well above industry standards.
“We carefully analyse and manage working and fatigue levels to ensure the wellbeing of our pilots and the safety of our operations at all times. Our pilots only fly when they are fit to fly. It is their duty as well as ours. Virgin Atlantic is one of the safest airlines in the industry and we will defend our reputation fiercely.”
The spokesperson added that it is “ready to commence pay and lifestyle discussions now with our pilot union representatives on the topics that are important to all of us”.
Commenting on the issue of public safety, Rob Bishton, Interim Joint-Chief Executive at the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, said: “The safety of the travelling public is the number one priority for the aviation industry and the Civil Aviation Authority.
“Managing pilot fatigue is vital to maintaining high safety standards. We know Virgin Atlantic takes this issue very seriously. The Civil Aviation Authority remains confident Virgin has the appropriate processes and procedures in place to manage fatigue and Flight Time Limitations.”