An "in-depth" review into airline safety protocols is underway amid serious concerns surrounding the industry, the European Commission has said. (Photo by Leonhard Simon/Getty Images)


Europe launches ‘in-depth’ airline safety review


Amid serious and growing airline-industry safety concerns, the European Commission said an “in-depth” review into relevant protocols is underway.

That comes after several scandals hit the industry over the past 12 months, with one 2023 report finding more than three-quarters of commercial airline pilots operating in the European Union “accidentally fall asleep” at the controls on a regular basis.

The document, penned by aviation safety consultancy Baines Simmons, found that nearly one in 10 pilots reported having unintentionally drifted off while in the cockpit 10 times or more over the space of four weeks.

Writing in response to a query from Irish MEP Clare Daly, European Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean confirmed the EC was “in communication” with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regarding the report and its findings.

She also confirmed that the EU body “is currently conducting an in-depth review of the rules addressing fatigue risks for air crew”.

“That review foresees the collection of objective sleep and fatigue data from aircrew and will therefore allow an accurate evaluation of this safety issue to be established,” she said.

Vălean added that “notwithstanding” the review, the EASA was also in the process of following up on the report with national regulators to ensure they are “properly enforcing” existing EU rules.

“The Commission and EASA fully recognise the safety relevance of ensuring that the aviation industry and national regulators are well prepared to identify and mitigate all potential safety risks, including fatigue,” she said, adding that one of the air-safety body’s “core tasks” was to ensure the proper implementation of relevant EU regulations.

The announcement came amid mounting global concern over air safety in the wake of several high-profile incidents, including a major crash in Japan in early January.

Recent issues involving Boeing 737-series aircraft have caused particular concern within the commercial airline business.

After an Alaskan Airlines flight suffered a mid-air fuselage blowout at 16,000 feet, the US Federal Aviation Authority announced it was grounding more than 100 hundred aircraft belonging to the US firm’s 9 MAX 737 variant on January 6.

Causing Boeing stock to tumble, the incident has been seen as yet another boost for EU-based aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

Long the rival of its US counterpart, the company has significantly pulled ahead in recent years.

On January 11, Airbus reported record annual jet orders and confirmed an 11per cent rise in 2023 deliveries, maintaining the top manufacturing spot against Boeing for a fifth year.