Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS) for cabin crew : evaluation of the current status and future needs : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health, Massey University, Sleep/Wake Research Centre, Wellington Campus, New Zealand
Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMSs) are a more recent approach to improving safety and increasing operational flexibility and have been utilised in the operation of Ultra-long range (ULR) flights that exceed traditional flight and duty time limits. Because ULR scheduling and FRMS processes for cabin crew are predominantly based on flight crew data, little is known about how well these work for cabin crew. A mixed methods approach was used to evaluate the current status of, and future needs for, FRMS for cabin crew. The sleep of 55 cabin crew was monitored throughout a ULR trip between Johannesburg and New York. On each flight, crewmembers rated their fatigue, sleepiness, and workload, and completed a 5-minute Psychomotor Vigilance Task at key times. In addition, semi-structured focus group discussions were held and thematic analysis was undertaken with data from 25 cabin crew with ULR experience.
Findings demonstrate that collecting fatigue monitoring data, as for flight crew, is also feasible for cabin crew, provided that operational differences between cabin crew and flight crew are considered. Using mitigations that mirror those used for flight crew, cabin crew fatigue can be managed effectively on a ULR flight. The findings also highlight the importance of: a) considering workload, the cumulative effects of fatigue across the entire ULR trip, and the impact of the entire schedule worked,
for improving the management of cabin crew fatigue associated with ULR operations, and; b) sufficient rest for adequate recovery and work-life balance in support of employees’ overall health and well-being; c) company support, in the form of fatigue-related processes and resources, effective communication and management’s engagement with cabin crew. Priority should be given to fatigue management training for cabin crew, which may also enhance perceived company support and assist with achieving a better work-life balance. Viewing fatigue as a compound hazard, the management of fatigue-related safety risks and health risks may be optimized if FRMS and OHS can be more closely linked or integrated, in support of improving cabin crews’ safety and service, and health and well-being.