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Emirates Cabin Crew Up in Arms Over Shorter Sydney Layover – It Might Be Unfair But it’s Perfectly Legal

Emirates Cabin Crew Up in Arms Over Shorter Sydney Layover – It Might Be Unfair But it’s Perfectly Legal

Emirates Cabin Crew Up in Arms Over Shorter Sydney Layover - It Might Be Unfair But it's Perfectly Legal

Members of Emirates’ cabin crew community are set to meet and express their concerns with senior executives today, including the airline’s new divisional vice president of service delivery, Thomas Ney.  Cabin crew at the airline will have the opportunity to ask questions at a newly established staff forum – the third such event held in recent weeks.

Ney, a former airline executive at airberlin, has told cabin crew that only select staff will be invited to the latest forum after the first event was massively oversubscribed.  Crew members are unhappy at a series of recent cost-cutting measures and have grown ever more confident in expressing these concerns with the airline’s management.

High up the agenda at today’s meeting could be a revelation that Emirates plans to give its cabin crew just 20 hours layover rest on its new service from Dubai to Sydney, Australia.  Sources from within the airline have described the new layover as “insane” and “simply illegal”.

Emirates will launch its new fourth daily Dubai to Sydney service on 25th March 2018.  Operated by one of the airline’s iconic A380’s, the flight time from Dubai is set at nearly 14 hours.  The actual ‘flight duty period’ – which includes briefing, safety and security preparations, as well as arrival duties would likely be around 18 hours.

The decision from Emirates to give cabin crew just 20 hours of rest down route has been met with derision by a number of unhappy staff.  It will be the shortest layover, Emirates currently provides for rest and recuperation after an ultra long range flight to Australia and New Zealand.

Hundreds of cabin crew attended the first Emirates staff forum. The airline was forced to hold two events on one day.
Hundreds of cabin crew attended the first Emirates staff forum. The airline was forced to hold two events on one day.

But while this decision might seem unfair, by international standards it’s perfectly legal.  Although complicated by a number of factors, ‘flight time limitations’ aren’t nearly as generous as the pictures of cabin crew lazing on beach loungers in the sun would imply.

Here’s how international rules stack up:


Across Europe, flight time regulations are managed by EASA – the European Aviation Safety Agency.  The rules are a basic protection, covering everything from in-flight rest to roster publication – many airlines across the continent choose to provide far more protection than is legally required.

With almost every eventuality legislated for, the new Emirates service to Sydney would offer just 14 hours minimum rest under European rules (due to the length of flight and because there’s a time difference of more than four hours).


The protections provided by the Civil Aviation Order 2013 are far more generous than that provided in Europe.  Under Section 10.3 cabin crew would expect to receive 24 hours minimum rest as a result of a series of rules that work in their favour – due to the fact the flight time goes over 12 hours and the big time difference.

The United States

The least generous rules are provided by the United States which make no provision for time differences or acclimatisation – instead, a duty period of 14 hours or more would provide a minimum rest period of at least 12 hours.

Having said that, most airlines in the USA do have scheduling agreements with their flight attendants that go way beyond this minimum protection.

Instead, country-level legislation generally guarantee flight attendants more time off once they arrive back home – with the added benefit that airlines save money by reducing ad diem payouts, hotel expenses and the such like.

This would appear to be the route that Emirates is going down with its new Sydney layover.  Sources have told us the airline has recently reduced the amount in allowances its cabin crew receive on layovers as part of its cost-cutting measures.

Staff haven’t received a pay rise in over a year and a company bonus scheme was suspended after profits tumbled in 2016/2017.

Other matters set to be discussed at today’s forum include a reduction in medical benefits and the amount of in-flight rest the airline offers its cabin crew.  At the first forum, the airline’s Chief Operations Officer Adel al-Redha said he would look into staff concerns and provide an update in due course.

In a recent Reuters article, Emirates explained in an emailed statement:

“Feedback or matters raised by our staff are reviewed and when changes are made, they are communicated through the respective line managers.”

“In any organisation, there will always be differing views and opinions. At Emirates, we value staff feedback and try to incorporate it where applicable to make the company a better place to work.”

View Comments (4)
  • Time downroute has always been a controversial subject… particularly within Long-haul. But now, this is also, in my view over spilling into time at home as well.
    Recently an ex colleague of mine, who is working for a LCC out of UK has been rostered what I think must be barely legal limited to the extreme.
    A 13 hour flight, 24hr layover- 14 hour flight home, only to 24 hours later do it all again!!!
    I have looked and looked at this and to me, it seems morally wrong, but is it illegal? I have not worked that out yet.

        • I would describe this arrangement as very close to being illegal but possibly just within EASA regulations.

          First of all:
          1. Your friend should check the total block time that Norwegian has calculated for each flight – they are only allowed to work 60 duty hours in any consecutive 7 day period.

          2. For both the evening and early outbound flight, Norwegian has to provide a minimum of 1hr 30mins to 1hr 45mins of in-flight rest (depending on how long the flight duty period actually is).

          3. As there is only a 3 hour time difference between the UK and Argentina, only 1 local night (2200-0600hrs) back at home is required in rest before the next flight.

          4. Because the flight is going back West, additional rest is not required.

          5. However, as the crew member will be in an ‘unknown state of acclimatization’ by this point, it’s important to note that they could only be rostered to operate a flight between 0615hrs to 1859hrs.

          I hope this provides some clarity. The rules are complicated and it looks like Norwegian has based its calculations on the based possible outcome – any delays could certainly push your friend “over hours”.

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