Emirates Airlines rejects Australian newspaper report that its pilots are fatigued

Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 15:39 by Jose Philip

Emirates Airlines, the national airline of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has refuted a report that appeared in an Australian newspaper that the airline is “putting profits before safety” concerning the management of its pilots’ fatigue risk.

Richard Vaughan, Emirates Airlines’ divisional senior vice-president (commercial operations worldwide) responded to the article published in the Herald Sun on October 4, 2009, saying that the article had not included “objective data” that the airline provided it but instead had quoted “anonymous sources.”

In a statement, Vaughan said that Emirates Airlines “reiterates its absolute commitment to safety” and that the carrier is a “world leader in the management of pilot fatigue and alertness.”

Herald Sun said in an editorial, referring to the article in question, that the newspaper used the United States Freedom of Information laws to obtain documents for its article on Emirates Airlines.

These documents, the editorial explained, included a formal complaint to the aviation authorities in Australia and the United States as also internal emails between the pilots and airline executives of Emirates Airlines, which “lift the lid” on the safety issue.

The article in question in Herald Sun was published on December 21, 2008. The article’s author claims that he wrote the piece on behalf of the pilots of Emirates Airlines and alleges that “flight safety is becoming increasingly impaired.”

It also said that the pilots of Emirates Airlines have charged the airline with “putting profits ahead of the lives of passengers and crew.”

The Herald Sun article quoted a senior pilot as saying in an email to an executive of Emirates, in a tone of warning, that he is “very concerned” that the commercial versus safety balance” in Emirates Airlines is “tipping in the wrong direction.” The sad thing, the pilot reportedly continued in the email, is that “in the event of the worst happening,” the fatigued pilots, and not those in the management, will be “in the dock, dead or alive.”

The article also said another pilot complained that he suffered from “micro-sleeps” while landing the plane.

The editorial in Herald Sun also refers to an incident, published in the newspaper earlier, when an Emirates Airlines’ Airbus aircraft with 275 passengers on board “came within 70 centimetres of crashing” at Melbourne Airport in Australia. The report said that the pilot of the Airbus plane, which has had a narrow shave at Melbourne Airport, had slept for only three and a half hours the day before, besides being near to his 100 flying hours (the maximum allowed) in the month before the incident.

Richard Vaughan, however, disputes this claim made by Herald Sun by arguing that the crew of the Melbourne-Dubai Flight EK 407 were given a 24-hour layover in Melbourne, which was adequate time for the crew to use the facilities for rest arranged for them.

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