Lufthansa Group subsidiaries Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS), Austrian Airlines and Lufthansa will abolish a rule requiring two people in the cockpit, effective May 1.

The carriers will revert to previous cockpit access provisions, plus a number of additional safety and security measures. Austrian Airlines spokesperson Peter Thier told ATW that Austrian will “revert to the previous cockpit access provisions on our Airbus, Boeing and Embraer fleet. The only exclusion is our [Bombardier] Dash 8 Q400 fleet,” he said.

The Lufthansa Group introduced the two-persons-in-the-cockpit rule as a precautionary measure after a Germanwings Airbus A320—en route from Barcelona to Düsseldorf—was deliberately flown into the French Alps March 24, 2015, killing all 150 people aboard. Investigations revealed that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, alone on the flight deck, switched the selected altitude from 38,000 ft. to 100 ft.—the minimum value possible on an Airbus A320—and increased the speed of the aircraft, setting in motion an intentional fatal descent into the French Alps.

In March 2015, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued a temporary recommendation, proposing that two crew members, including at least one qualified pilot, should occupy the cockpit during flight. This was not a requirement.

EASA revised its recommendation in summer 2016, offering airlines the option of abolishing this “two-persons-in-the-cockpit” rule, provided they met the relevant further criteria.

According to SWISS, the action to abolish the rule follows an extensive safety and security review, which concluded the rule does not enhance flight safety, and actually introduces additional risks to daily operations. The decision has been coordinated with similar risk assessments by its Lufthansa Group airlines partner.

SWISS, Austrian and Lufthansa said they meet all the requirements required by EASA of any airline seeking to abolish the rule, which include:

  • Ensuring suitable selection criteria and procedures to assess the psychological and safety-relevant demands made on pilots;
  • Ensuring stable employment terms and conditions for cockpit personnel;
  • Giving pilots (easy) access to any psychological or other support programs they may need; and
  • Demonstrating an ability as a company to minimize the psychological and social risks to which pilots are exposed, such as loss of license.

SWISS said its decision to abolish the two-persons-in-the-cockpit rule is supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation.

Kurt Hofmann