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Pilots Hit Back at JetBlue’s Pilot Rest Excuse Without Naming Names

@denschaal

Skift Take

Newsflash: It snows every winter in Boston and New York, and it gets cold, too, although admittedly not as frigid as its been over the weekend and early this week. Shouldn’t JetBlue had a major contingency plan for this kind of situation, and been better prepared to hustle in some new pilot crews when its flight crews became over-extended?

— Dennis Schaal

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) issued a statement today which argued that the Federal Aviation Administration’s new pilot rest rules that went into effect this past weekend were not responsible for airlines’ operational problems, including flight delays and cancellations in the Northeast and Midwest.

The ALPA statement takes a swipe at JetBlue without actually naming the airline. Southwest, too, cited the new rules, but didn’t put much emphasis on their impact.

“Those who have claimed that these new regulations are the cause of current flight delays neglect to consider the impact of severe weather systems which are currently being seen across the United States and that the airlines have had two years to prepare for operations under the new rules,” the ALPA states.

JetBlue’s pilots are not represented by a union.

The new Federal Aviation Regulation 117’s rules on rest, which largely grew out of the crash of Colgan Air flight 3407 in February 2009, pilots can be on duty for a maximum of 9 to 14 hours (reduced from 16) and fly the aircraft for 8 or 9 hours, depending on the time of day, without waiving the rule, which had been the norm.

In addition, pilots are required to have 30 hours of rest without interruption in a seven-day period, and 10 hours off duty before flying again (up from the previous 8 hours off in the prior 24-hour period).

The ALPA defends the rules, which have received some criticism for exacerbating flight delays, and wants to see them extended to cargo pilots.

“The new science-based flight- and duty-time rules are a significant victory for safety and the traveling public here in the United States because they represent a long-overdue overhaul of decades-old flight and duty regulations,” the ALPA states. “We also believe that these regulations should cover all airline pilots, ALPA supports H.R. 182/S. 1692—the Safe Skies Act, which would require that cargo pilots be included in these regulations in order to increase safety for the public.”

As the controversy stirs, JetBlue is reportedly backtracking somewhat from its statement yesterday that the new rules on pilot rest had a “major impact” on operations.

JetBlue has been whacked on social media about its flight operations, which were suspended in the Northeast corridor Monday evening and Tuesday morning, with some customers arguing that the airline used the pilot-rest rules as an excuse.

Some passengers contend, as does the ALPA, that JetBlue had plenty of time to prepare for the new pilot mandates.

The full statement is below:

For decades, ALPA has been fully engaged in efforts to change the flight-time/ duty-time regulations to reduce fatigue and enhance aviation safety for all. In June, 2009, the FAA developed an Aviation Rulemaking Committee to study and recommend changes to the regulations. The FAA invited ALPA to participate, along with representatives from government agencies, airlines, and aviation labor groups to ensure that all parties were fully prepared for the implementation of new pilot fatigue rules. We have long maintained that the new flight- and duty-time limits and minimum rest requirements will improve safety for all airline passengers, cabin crew, and pilots alike. Unfortunately Cargo Airline pilots were excluded from the safety benefits of these new regulations.

Those who have claimed that these new regulations are the cause of current flight delays neglect to consider the impact of severe weather systems which are currently being seen across the United States and that the airlines have had two years to prepare for operations under the new rules. The new science-based flight- and duty-time rules are a significant victory for safety and the traveling public here in the United States because they represent a long-overdue overhaul of decades-old flight and duty regulations. We also believe that these regulations should cover all airline pilots, ALPA supports H.R. 182/S. 1692—the Safe Skies Act, which would require that cargo pilots be included in these regulations in order to increase safety for the public.

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