German airlines scrap post-Germanwings two-person cockpit rule

BERLIN (Reuters) - German airlines will scrap by June 1 a rule that two people must be in the cockpit of a plane at all times, introduced after the Germanwings crash of March 2015, the BDL airline association said on Friday.

Investigators believe Germanwings pilot Andreas Lubitz locked the captain out of the cockpit after he left to use the bathroom and deliberately flew the A320 jet into a mountainside in the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board.

After the crash, Europe’s aviation safety authority EASA imposed a rule that two crew members should be in the cockpit at all times, meaning that if one of the pilots needed to step out, a member of the cabin crew should step in.

EASA relaxed the requirement last year, saying it was up to airlines to carry out their own risk assessment.

The BDL said German airlines had independently come to the same conclusion - that the two-person cockpit rule did not increase safety but could rather create other risks, for example due to the door being open for longer to let crew in and out.

It highlighted figures showing there was a greater risk of airliners being hijacked than deliberately crashed, with more than 1,000 cases to date, compared with four suicides.

The change came after new Europe-wide rules were introduced regarding mental health screening and monitoring of pilots, designed to reduce the risk of an event similar to the Germanwings crash occurring.

Germany’s biggest airline Lufthansa confirmed it would lift the two-person cockpit rule across all of its subsidiaries, including Swiss, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Eurowings by June 1.

A spokesman for UK-listed tour operator Thomas Cook Group, which owns German airline Condor, said the new policy would apply to all four airlines within its group, including those in the UK, Belgium and Scandinavia, by May 15.

Ryanair said its two-person cockpit rule remained in place. EasyJet, the first airline to introduce the rule after the crash, had no immediate comment.

British Airways said it would not comment on its policy for reasons of security.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan; editing by Mark Heinrich