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Abstract

Objective

This research investigates and compares working-conditions, duty rosters, stress, sleep problems, fatigue levels, mental health, and well-being of pilots working for network (NWCs), and low-cost carriers (LCCs). This study extends previous research by investigating working conditions, pilots’ actual rosters, fatigue and mental health of two groups of pilots flying for LCC or NWC.

Method

A comprehensive cross-sectional online survey was completed by N=338 pilots (185 NWC, 153 LCC pilots). All pilots reported their roster data of the last 2 months during peak flight season, psychosocial and work-related stress (e.g., high job insecurity, less total flight-experience, lower income, more time pressure, more early starts), sleep difficulties, levels of fatigue, well-being, symptoms of depression, anxiety, and common mental disorders (CMD).

Results

LCC pilots reported significantly more work-related stressors like lower income, younger age, less total flight experience, more demanding rosters (more sectors, more early starts, more duty and flight hours), significantly more sleep difficulties, and very high levels of fatigue. Moreover, LCC pilots’ well-being was significantly more impaired: 24.2% of the LCC vs. 14.8% of NWC pilots reported positive depression screening results, and 7.1% of LCC and NWC pilots reported significant symptoms of anxiety.

Conclusions

This study confirms that different airline business models and management strategies result in more stressful working conditions for LCC pilots, whose health is more impaired by high fatigue and mental health issues. Although LCC pilots did not report significantly higher duty and flight hours, the work-related stressors like more bogus self-employment, high job, and income insecurity, more time pressure, were associated with even higher levels of fatigue, significantly more sleep problems, and more impaired mental health and well-being. In line with previous research, LCC pilots reported more safety issues and more fatigue-related incidents compared with NWC pilots.

Acknowledgements

I want to thank Alvarez IT Solutions for programming the online survey, IT security, and web hosting, as well as our informal network of very experienced pilots for their professional support, proofreading, and valuable background information for this research.

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