Canada pilot fatigue rules to start in 2018 for large carriers: union

A West Jet Boeing 737-700 aircraft (L) departs Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, British Columbia February 9, 2011. REUTERS/Andy Clark

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Proposed Canadian rules to ensure commercial pilots get enough rest would go into effect in 2018 for WestJet Airlines Ltd WJA.TO and Air Canada AC.TO but apply to smaller carriers only in 2021, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said late on Tuesday.

The new regulations would reduce pilots’ working day from up to a 14 hour shift to a period of nine to 13 hours, depending on the time they start and number of flights they make while on duty, Dan Adamus, president of ALPA’s Canadian board said in an interview.

Pilots who start late at night and make several flights would work a shorter period of time, he said, adding that specific details about exact shifts were not yet known.

Small Canadian carriers would have four years to apply the regulations after they are finalized in 2017, while large operators would have a year to comply. ALPA is urging Transport Canada to make the regulations applicable to all carriers within a year, regardless of size.

“A pilot is a pilot. Fatigue is fatigue,” Adamus said. “It should be one year for everybody.”

Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau told Reuters last week that the new rules would apply to commercial flights of a variety of sizes and be based on scientific evidence on fatigue, but did not give further details.

Some Canadian pilots, especially those working for small airlines, can be scheduled to work for up to 14 hours, while in the United States, Australia, the European Union and India, shifts range from nine to 13 hours depending on time of day.

On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Air Canada said the carrier supports the current review of regulations, but declined to comment on the proposed changes because the rules have not yet been made public.

A spokeswoman for Garneau wrote in an email on Wednesday that more details on the pilot fatigue regulations would be provided “in due course.”

Editing by Tom Brown and Alan Crosby