Chapter 2 Issues arising from the inquiry
The role of crew in maintaining safety and security
CASA described the role of cabin crew in safety and security as ‘a vital
link’ that maintains and applies the operational procedures of aircraft
operators, and calls on law enforcement where required.
The Department of Infrastructure and Transport’s Office of Transport Security
agreed with the description of cabin crew as ‘one strand in a multi-stranded
approach to security’.
Alliance Airlines noted that crew members have the primary role of
dealing with emergency or abnormal conditions in the passenger cabin, and were
responsible for the control and evacuation of passengers in an emergency.
The FAAA expanded on this role, suggesting the crew are the ‘eyes and
ears in the cabin’ for pilots now that flight deck doors are locked.
Although the Committee heard different perspectives on the historical role of
pilots during security incidents, it was agreed that now
that cockpit doors are locked at all times during flight, pilots have no role
in managing incidents in the cabin. Mr Tony Maddern, representing Alliance
Airlines and the Regional Aviation Association of Australia, advised that ‘in
the past, we used to be able to send the flight engineer back to look after any
trouble-makers. We do not have flight engineers there anymore, so it is up to
the cabin crew.’ Mr Ken Lewis confirmed
the Committee’s observation that a reduction in the number of crew who may be
able to assist if required had already occurred, when ‘the engineer was
replaced by a computer’.
The FAAA’s supplementary submission cited numerous reports from cabin
crew members of instances in which their safety and security tasks had been
rushed or not completed due to low staffing levels and time pressures before
takeoff while operating under the 1:50 ratio. The FAAA also noted that
‘dealing with an incident is only one aspect, controlling 50 passengers
single-handedly is not feasible from either a security or safety perspective’.
Also addressing security, the Transport Workers Union noted:
Cabin crew are trained to monitor passengers in respect to
the security and safety of an aircraft and its occupants. The risks are
substantially increased when a smaller overall cabin crew is involved.
The Regional Aviation Association of Australia indicated that the 1:36
ratio did not provide any substantive safety or security benefit when compared
to operations under a ratio of 1:50. This view was supported
by Alliance Airlines, who suggested the 1:36 rule required more crew than are
demonstrably required to meet the safety requirements for the aircraft.
Cobham Aviation also indicated that it was:
… unreasonable to think that even at a 1:36 passenger ratio
that the Cabin Crew team could completely control a security event without
Addressing the use of explosive devices on aircraft, Alliance Airlines
suggested crew were poorly placed to identify and intervene against such threats.
Alliance suggested that passengers are now the ‘front line’ of defence against
explosive devices on aircraft, and were better placed to identify aberrant
behaviour, and that passengers were now also willing to actively intervene to
prevent threats such as these.
The Australian Airline Pilots’ Association noted the lack of focus on
cabin security in CASA’s proposal to alter cabin crew ratios:
The issue of security is one which seems to have been
bypassed in the decision regarding a change of cabin crew ratio. All of the
justification to date has been centred on the ability to evacuate the aircraft
in the required time as determined by the manufacturer or the state. There is
no indication of the effect of a reduction in cabin crew numbers on the
security of the aircraft or on the handling of an inflight security incident.
The Committee asked Mr Peter Robertson of the Office of Transport
Security whether there was any evidence to indicate whether one ratio was
superior to another in terms of security. Mr Robertson replied that there was
no evidence one way or the other, and that no assurances one way or the other
could be given without evidence.
As was noted earlier, advice from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau
(ATSB) was cited by CASA as a particular reason for its 2002 decision to retain
the 1:36 cabin crew to passenger ratio. The Committee regrets that
the ATSB chose not to participate in the current inquiry.
Measuring ratios and safety through evacuation demonstrations
Throughout the inquiry, the Committee heard about the use of partial
evacuation demonstrations to demonstrate the effectiveness of aircraft
evacuations under reduced cabin crew numbers. CASA requires an operator seeking
a 1:36 exemption to ‘prove’ that a partial evacuation can be achieved with ‘an
acceptable level of safety (or better)’.
A partial evacuation demonstration requires part of an aircraft to be
populated with passengers, crew placed on board, and 50 per cent of the doors
to be made unavailable for evacuation. Lights are also switched off to
replicate a possible evacuation scenario. Passengers and crew are not aware
ahead of time which doors are unavailable. During the demonstration, the
airline is required to demonstrate that the aircraft can be evacuated safely within
90 seconds. For safety purposes, passengers
disembark via stairs, rather than through the deployment of slides.
The purpose of this style of evacuation demonstration is to replicate
the worst case scenario, in which an aircraft is on the ground and on fire.
Where required, airlines also conduct a demonstration simulating a ditching.
In its submission, CASA advised that demonstrations are conducted under
pass/fail criteria, and that in the event of a failed first attempt, airlines are
given a second opportunity to conduct an evacuation demonstration on the same
day using new crew and passengers.
CASA’s submission noted that one operator had failed at both attempts,
and was able to try again several months later after a full investigation of
the unsatisfactory result, and amendment to procedures and crew training. This
second demonstration was deemed successful.
On further investigation, the Committee learned from CASA that there
were deficiencies in crew performance, as the simulation was one of a ditching,
and a life raft was left on board. The Committee was
further informed that an airline had recently failed a demonstration twice due
to insufficient crew awareness of procedures.
The Committee asked whether there had been any full aircraft evacuations
undertaken in Australia. While Mr Lewis recalled that a full evacuation
exercise had been conducted in 1972, CASA, in its supplementary submission,
advised the last full evacuations were conducted in 1988, with one
demonstration considered to be a failure due to cabin crew training
deficiencies. A second evacuation was
then undertaken several weeks later and was deemed to be successful.
Evacuation trials were criticised by several witnesses and submitters.
The FAAA said of the trials:
Emergency evacuation trials are conducted in very controlled
environments and do not reflect an actual emergency evacuation as emergency
conditions are not duplicated. The crew are tutored, prepared and practiced
prior to the demonstration. The ‘passengers’ are fit, prepared, do not include
children, the elderly, the frightened, injured, disabled or panicked. Cabin
crew incapacity/redundancy is not factored into an evacuation trial. There is
no smoke or fire and the aircraft is upright and intact. If a failure occurs,
there is a re-run.
Ms Beverley Maunsell was also critical of evacuation trials, noting in
They are not a legitimate representation of the typical
passenger load on a commercial flight or a real emergency evacuation. There are
no elderly passengers, no wheelchairs, no physical, mental, hearing, or sight
impaired passengers, no mothers with multiple children and infants. All of the
above mentioned people are excluded from evacuation trials for litigation and
Ms Maunsell described evacuation trials as unrepresentative of real life
evacuations, noting that in a major accident in 1985 in Manchester, United
Kingdom, in which an aircraft caught fire on the tarmac after a failed take
off, it took the last passenger five and a half minutes to evacuate the
aircraft. A prevous evacuation demonstration had seen the aircraft cleared in
In citing the Manchester accident, Tony Maddern noted that no
recommendation had been made to alter the UK cabin crew ratio of 1:50 that was
in place at the time and remains in place to this day.
The Committee notes, however, that in the Manchester accident the aircraft had
131 passengers and four members of cabin crew, operating at a nominal ratio of
1:33. In this accident, the two members of cabin crew at the rear of the
aircraft died, and the two crew members at the front of the aircraft directed
In criticising live evacuation trials, Ms Maunsell instead noted the
value of computer modelling:
I do not think the trials mean anything. They are
meaningless. If you were serious about wanting to know whether people could get
out then you need to do computer modelling — they take it and put [in] old
people and people with children. They put baggage all over the place. They
Ms Maunsell continued, noting that evacuation trials were used as a
basis for detailed computer modelling for the Airbus A380:
They [Airbus] did both. They do the evacuations where they
use all the people from the Hamburg gym or whatever it was and all the staff
from Airbus and then use that as the basis for setting up the computer program
to model. They then put in all the problems. Those evacuation trials have a
basis if they are used with computer modelling, but they have no basis on their
The Committee understands that a full evacuation demonstration requiring
evacuation via emergency slide is unduly dangerous, having heard evidence of
serious injuries and even death occurring through the use of slides.
While the Committee understands the need to reduce risks in evacuation
trials by using fit and healthy people, it is also of the belief that these
trials fail to take into account the actual demographic makeup of Australian
domestic passenger flights.
The Committee notes evidence received about the changing nature of
passenger demographics in recent years. Beverley Maunsell noted that
demographic changes in the travelling passenger cohort have included many more
passengers with disabilities.
In its submission, the FAAA cited the higher numbers of passengers (such
as disabled, elderly, unaccompanied children or parents with infants) requiring
more help than the average passenger, and argued that a reduction in cabin crew
on the aircraft would impact on the efficiency of evacuation.
Ms Carol Locket, representing the FAAA, noted that there had been an increase
in carry-on luggage, which would make
evacuation of an aircraft even more difficult in the event of an emergency.
The Committee also heard that the behaviour of passengers had changed:
… we are seeing a lot more aggression. I think we see that in
the general public, but it is very much so on an aircraft where people are not
in control. They have great trouble taking direction sometimes and the
aggression is there. We have a lot more instances of drug related behaviour;
that is much more common.
Evidence supplied by the Qantas Group indicated that there had been an
increase in reported incidents aboard Qantas flights between January 2007 and
May 2011. While the majority of cases concerned passenger use of mobile phones
and personal electronic devices, there were also increases in passenger
non-compliance with cabin crew directions.
The role of passengers in emergency evacuations
The Committee received several submissions that discussed the role of
passengers in the opening of emergency exits, which may be more likely to be required
during the evacuation of an aircraft crewed at the 1:50 ratio.
The FAAA noted in its submission that knowing the correct circumstances
in which a door should be opened for evacuation was of critical importance. It
advised that passengers were not trained to recognise the potentially fatal
consequences of opening a door into fire, smoke or water.
This point was supported by the Transport Workers Union, which described a reliance
on untrained passengers, who may have language and communication difficulties, to
assess and operate emergency exits as ‘a diminished level of safety and an
Beverley Maunsell cited several documented cases from the United States
National Transport Safety Bureau of passengers opening doors into flames or
allowing smoke into the cabin when operating doors in an emergency.
In its submission, the Australian Airline Pilots’ Association chronicled
several incidents in which passengers had acted contrary to instructions or, in
the absence of crew supervision, had inappropriately opened exits or failed to
find exits during an evacuation.
The FAAA also noted research conducted at the University of Greenwich
that indicated that passengers travelled further to deplane, and chose
non-optimal exits, without the guidance of crew members.
Examining the role of cabin crew in an evacuation, Beverley Maunsell
suggested it would not be physically possible for one member of crew to control
an evacuation at two adjacent doors at the same time, describing the notion as
‘farcical’. Evidence provided by the
FAAA from cabin crew members illustrated the possibility of passengers being
responsible for both front doors on the A321 if the single crew member was
incapacitated in an accident.
Countering this concern, CASA cited research carried out by Cranfield
University which had resulted in ‘virtually identical’ mean evacuation times
whether there was one member of cabin crew or two members of cabin crew
controlling passenger exit from adjacent doors.
Airline safety advisor Ken Lewis also expressed concern about an
unattended main entry door, even in a non-emergency situation, noting a
catastrophic incident was possible even as an aircraft taxied after landing if
a passenger successfully opened a door at the front of an aircraft.
Looking at the role and responsibility of passengers in an evacuation,
CASA expressed an understanding that Boeing and Airbus had increasingly ‘put
some dependence on able-bodied passengers being able to assist in the
evacuation’. This provision relates
to passengers seated in the over-wing exit row. The FAAA advised that over-wing
‘self-help’ exits are the sole responsibility of passengers, and crew did not
assist in opening these exits.
In its public hearing, the Committee heard evidence that passengers would
experience difficulties in opening exit doors, with Beverley Maunsell
suggesting ‘most people’ could not open them. This evidence was
supported by Carol Locket, who noted that using the correct technique in
opening a door was important, because ‘there are certain types of doors where
it would not matter how hard you pushed them; if you had not put the handle in
the correct position in the first place, they will not open’.
When asked directly about whether a passenger with no training would be able to
successfully open a door, she replied ‘I would say that they would have a very
reduced chance of opening that successfully’.
Addressing this issue in its supplementary submission, CASA noted that
in the case of the Airbus A321, the capability of able-bodied passengers to
open floor level exits was considered a safety enhancement. Passengers require
a safety briefing that includes instructions on how to assess conditions
outside of the aircraft, including fire and smoke.
The Committee discussed the issue of exit row seating, noting that
airlines had been known to charge more for exit row seating due to their extra
leg room available. It asked witnesses about the assessments performed on
potential exit row passengers to determine whether they were able-bodied, and
procedures for moving passengers who were not deemed suitable to sit in the
The Committee also discussed briefings provided by cabin crew to exit
row passengers, noting that the briefings they had witnessed through their
travel had on some occasions been insufficient. Virgin Australia described
their instructions on operating over-wing exits as ‘very detailed’, and noted
that the passenger is required to confirm that they had understood the
The role of passengers in security incidents
As discussed earlier in this chapter, the Committee was advised that
passengers have been increasingly willing to intervene in security incidents in
the post-September 11 environment.
The Committee’s attention was also drawn to a recent incident aboard
Qantas Flight 768 from Perth to Melbourne, in which a passenger is alleged to
have assaulted a member of cabin crew, and twice attempted to open the right
rear door while in flight.
The Committee was informed by the Department of Infrastructure and
Transport that the number of disruptive passenger events onboard an aircraft in
Australia is very low, with an incident on 0.001% of flights per year over the
2008-10 period. The majority of these incidents did not involve attempts to
interfere with aviation, and were instead related to alcohol, not following
crew instructions, or mental illness. Further, the Department noted in some of
these cases, passengers had assisted crew in restraining a disruptive
The Committee observed that all sectors of the industry appreciate the
role cabin crew members play in both safety and security, and considers
that cabin security is an important issue that needs to be considered when
evaluating cabin crew ratios. Cabin crew are trained professionals who are
skilled at evaluating possible security threats at the time of boarding,
and access to this expertise should not be reduced without clear evidence that
there would be no diminution of passenger safety.
The Committee considers that the failure of CASA to consider the role
cabin crew play in securing the cabin and passengers is unfortunate. The
Committee understands that CASA’s responsibility is to consider aviation safety;
however, the Committee is also of the belief that cabin security is intimately
related to cabin safety.
This lack of clear consideration of security issues by CASA must be
addressed by the regulator. The Committee acknowledges the view of Beverley
Maunsell that ‘… in this business you cannot separate occupational safety,
operational safety and security because they are all so intertwined’.
Safety and security are different, though closely related matters, and a secure
aircraft is a safer aircraft. There needs to be more interaction between CASA
and the OTS to determine what constitutes an adequately secure aircraft, and
for this determination to be used by CASA in any future review of cabin crew
ratios. Accordingly, the Committee recommends:
||That the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Office of Transport Safety work together to determine an appropriate level of passenger
compartment security for Australian domestic flights, taking into account
previous incidents both in Australia and abroad.
||That the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider passenger compartment security in any future review of cabin crew ratios.
When considering evacuation demonstrations, the Committee understands
the reasons that partial evacuations only involve fit and physically able
people. However, the Committee has concerns about the significant differences
between a controlled demonstration and a real-life emergency, where a more
accurate reflection of a population’s demographics is included. The Committee
considers that the findings of these partial evacuation demonstrations should
not be relied upon as accurate representations of an emergency evacuation.
The Committee sees value in the use of computer modelling to simulate
evacuations, and encourages operators to explore using this technology further
to demonstrate the effectiveness of their safety procedures.
The Committee was concerned to hear that there is an increasing reliance
being placed on passengers to open doors in the case of an emergency, given the
relative complexity of the task and the expertise required to assess the
situation outside the aircraft.
It notes the vast majority of casualties in the aforementioned Manchester
accident of 1985 died of smoke inhalation, and believes any increased reliance
on passengers to operate doors presents potentially hazardous circumstances in
the event of an onboard emergency involving fire. It notes in the official
report into the accident that passengers operated the over-wing exits
incorrectly, leaving them trapped inside the aircraft.
While Airbus may consider the capability for doors on the A321 to be
able to be operated by properly briefed passengers to be a safety enhancement,
the Committee is exploring exemptions to a range of aircraft, not just the
A321, and notes that briefings on how to operate doors can vary in quality.
The Committee also notes evidence regarding the higher charges levied
for passengers wishing to have extra legroom in exit row seats. The Committee
is concerned that any automation of check-in procedures does not reduce the
capacity for cabin crew members to assess, before takeoff, the suitability of
passengers to occupy an exit row.
Addressing the issue of passengers and security, the Committee is
unconvinced by suggestions that passengers should be relied upon to take part
in ensuring the security of the cabin. While it is entirely probable that
passengers would assist in ensuring the security of the cabin, including
assisting cabin crew to restrain unruly passengers, the Committee remains
concerned about an overall reduction of cabin crew numbers based on anecdotal evidence
that, post-September 11, passengers are increasingly willing to intervene in
CASA’s review processes
The Committee inquired about the level of consultation undertaken by
CASA before embarking on the NPRM process in relation to cabin crew ratios and
expressed concern that consultation with the public may not have been
sufficient. CASA replied that they conducted more public consultation than
other high-capacity public transport bodies, and that it has a Standards
Consultative Committee in place which includes operators, unions, and other
organisations, including the Australian Passenger Safety Association, as
Other evidence presented to the Committee suggested that there had been
no stakeholder or public consultation prior to the granting of exemptions, and
that CASA had granted exemptions via delegated legislation in contravention of
the previously expressed views of the Parliament.
In its supplementary submission, CASA advised that it had advertised the
NPRM in newspapers and on the CASA website, and that should the NPRM proceed, a
report would be prepared and made publicly available to advise of the decision.
While the Committee makes no comment on the use of delegated legislation
to grant exemptions, it does have concerns about the lack of coverage and processes
employed by CASA to consult with flight attendants, stakeholders and the
The Committee notes the submission from the FAAA which urges the public
release of hazard identification, risk assessment and mitigation strategies
that were performed before the granting of exemptions.
The Committee believes it is in the best interests of all, especially the
flying public, that CASA’s decisions, and the rationale behind them (including
submissions made to CASA), are made publicly available in a timely manner. The
Committee notes that CASA publishes information after a decision is taken, but
believes a more open consultative approach could be taken.
||That, prior to finalising the process, the Civil Aviation
Safety Authority publish on its website all non-confidential submissions made
to it through the Notice of Proposed Rule Making process.
Further, the Committee believes the public consultation mechanism
surrounding NPRMs should be expanded when they relate to issues that directly
affect passengers, such as cabin crew ratios. The Committee believes that
advertising in newspapers and placing information on the CASA website
constitutes a minimum level of publicity, and believes CASA could do more to
raise the travelling public’s awareness of issues that directly affect their
flying experience. Accordingly, the Committee recommends:
||That the Civil Aviation Safety Authority advertise Notices
of Proposed Rule Making that directly affect passengers in publications that
are widely read by the travelling public, such as in-flight magazines, and
that CASA seek submissions from the public into the advertised Notices of
Proposed Rule Making.
The Committee was interested in the level of safety and security
training provided to cabin crew and other workers connected to aircraft safety
The Department of Infrastructure and Transport reported the security
requirements contained in the Aviation Transport Security Regulations 2005 in
- The requirement for
aircraft with over 30 seats that are operating a Regular Public Transport or
open charter service to have a hardened cockpit door that is locked during
- The requirement for
an operator of a prescribed air service to establish and maintain a security
training program for crew covering topics such as deciding the seriousness of
an occurrence, crew communication and coordination, and appropriate self
defence. This satisfies Australia’s obligation under Annex 6 of the Chicago
Convention in respect of minimum security training topics that an aircraft
operator must include in their crew training program.
- The requirement for
an aircraft operator’s transport security program to address matters including:
measures and procedures for handling suspect behaviour by a passenger;
procedures for raising the awareness and alertness of staff to security threats
and their responsibility to report aviation security incidents and breaches;
how security awareness training will be given to operational staff; and duties
and responsibilities of personnel with security roles.
The Committee inquired into the role of the Office of Transport Security
(a division of the Department of Infrastructure and Transport) in airline staff
training. The Department advised that operators were responsible for submitting
their transport security programs, including cabin crew training programs, to
the Office of Transport Security for approval.
The Qantas Group noted in its submission that Jetstar cabin crew only
receive annual refresher and recurrent emergency procedure training, whilst Qantas
cabin crew received twice yearly training in emergency procedures and normal
operations, that training was competency based, and that crew were assessed in
theoretical and practical knowledge.
The Qantas Group reported that cabin crew training, rather than numbers,
is the determining factor in performing an efficient and safe evacuation.
Ms Carol Locket of the FAAA reported that security training was being
conducted once every two years, rather than yearly, and that the major airlines
had been reducing or dispersing the amount of training provided to members of
The Transport Workers Union noted in its submission:
… in terms of cabin crew at present there is no one mandated
standard of accreditation, qualification and licensing system currently in
place. In practical terms this means that the skill, qualification and capacity
of cabin crew to handle an in flight emergency or security situation is
currently different depending on who you fly with.
Expanding on the TWU submission, Tony Sheldon advised that there had
been an increase in training of his members, but suggested it was inadequate,
and that employees had been reprimanded for raising security issues such as
unattended baggage that may interfere with the efficient operation of aircraft.
The FAAA suggested that any reduction in crew should also properly
consider flight and duty time limitations, and that Australia did not currently
comply with the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) Standards
and Recommended Practices.
The Australian Airline Pilots Association noted in its submission that
there were currently no legislated flight and duty time limits for cabin crews.
They suggested this was a shifting of responsibility from CASA to the
operators, and noted the ICAO audit of Australia from 18–28 February 2008 had
identified this issue. CASA had agreed with the findings of the audit, noting
rest periods were ‘only subject to workplace agreements and State-based
legislation in relation to occupational health and safety’.
In the Committee’s public hearing, CASA discussed the ICAO fatigue risk
management guidelines, noting it had received a draft of the guidelines.
Further, CASA advised it had the intention to produce fatigue risk management
guidelines, noting there would be wide industry consultation, including with
the general public. CASA expressed optimism that the process would cover cabin
crews by 2012.
The Committee inquired whether CASA was satisfied with the fatigue
management systems currently put in place by Australian operators. John
McCormick of CASA responded:
If I take that across the whole board as a yes or no question
I would say at the moment what we are seeing would lead us to indicate yes.
There are certainly fatigue issues out there. There certainly are patterns of
flights which are not very user friendly. I think they can be improved. We have
done this extensive work with major operators in Australia about some of the
patterns that they roster their crew on. That is an ongoing process …
Virgin Australia was asked about its fatigue management system, advising
that its crew could do up to four sectors per day, but that their duty time
limitation was nine hours and 45 minutes operating time.
Cobham Aviation identified security training and fatigue risk management
appraisals as measures to enhance aviation security.
In its submission, the Transport Workers Union suggested addressing
fatigue and risks through mandatory:
- operator commitment
to enforceable independent third party risk assessments and compliance audits;
- crew roster patterns,
rest and fatigue management systems and enforceable protections;
- operator commitment
to whistleblower protections; and
- crew training,
accreditation and qualification systems, including mandatory safety security
||That the Civil Aviation Safety Authority ensure that
Australia becomes compliant with the International Civil Aviation
Organisation’s Standards and Recommended Practices relating to cabin crew
flight and duty time limitations as a matter of priority.
Airside security and ASIC passes
While not specifically relating to the issue of cabin crew ratios, the
Committee took a broad approach to issues of passenger safety and security,
including safe operations at airports. The Committee received evidence at its
public hearing of 25 May 2011 held in Canberra relating to airside security
practices. Witnesses from the Transport Workers Union (TWU) expressed concern
that security screening of employees working airside had not been adequately
Tony Sheldon of the TWU advised the Committee that the process for
issuing ASIC (Aviation Security Identification Card) passes is slow, and
workers are allowed to work airside without a card until it has been issued. Mr
Sheldon noted that the Office of Transport Security endeavoured to issue an ASIC
pass within five days, but took up to 20 days to consider those with unclear
security histories. He described the concept of a person working airside
without security clearance for up to 20 days as ‘ludicrous’, and noted the
potential not just for acts of terror, but also for drug trafficking.
Mr Sheldon suggested this issue had arisen because companies did not wish to
apply for ASIC passes prior to engaging employees.
Witnesses from the TWU noted a recent instance at Canberra Airport in
which eight employees of a cleaning company were working airside without ASIC
checks, including near passenger and VIP aircraft (including the Prime
Minister’s aircraft). After the witnesses
persuaded the Australian Federal Police to investigate the issue further, it
was found that a number of the workers were illegally working on student visas.
After AFP involvement, the employees were removed from the premises and did not
return to work at Canberra Airport.
In its submission, the TWU suggested the implementation of mandatory
safety and security training for all ASIC pass holders, and a security and
safety accreditation and portable licensing system for all aviation industry employees,
commencing with cabin crew.
These matters are outside the terms of reference for this inquiry, but
the Committee feels they should be recorded for consideration by the Minister.
Committee’s overall conclusions
A central concern for this inquiry was the difference between ratios of
1:36 (crew to passengers) and 1:50 (crew to passenger seats), and the
difficulties in adequately comparing these, where data is not readily
available. Throughout the course of its inquiry, the Committee sought any clear
evidence available that compared operations under a cabin crew ratio of 1:36
with those under a ratio of 1:50. It sought data for comparison based on
Australian operations, and when it became clear this was not available, sought
to determine whether there was data comparing Australia to other countries,
including Canada, which also has a cabin crew ratio different to the 1:50 used
Having discussed the issue comprehensively with operators, employee
organisations, experts, and the regulator itself, it is clear to the Committee
that there are no direct or indirect comparisons that measure the effectiveness
of an evacuation exercise using both ratios.
While it is clear that partial evacuations are of some use in
demonstrating the training and operational procedures of operators, the inquiry
process has brought forth evidence that suggests partial evacuation
demonstrations are, at best, an imprecise measure of the effectiveness of an
The Committee notes the two separate issues of cabin safety and cabin
security. The focus of CASA’s proposal on cabin safety is understandable, given
that CASA’s primary role is one of safety. However, cabin security is a
separate, though closely related responsibility of members of cabin crew, and
the Committee believes that a security incident can very quickly impact on the
safety of an aircraft.
Further, the Committee notes the criticism of CASA’s handling of
security issues, and the role played by the Office of Transport Security in
assessing the role of cabin crew in security. It understands the
demarcation of duties between CASA and the Office of Transport Security, but
believes at there is considerable scope, and need, for the agencies to work
more closely when assessing the links between safety and security, and the
impacts of their respective decisions on these factors.
The Committee notes with concern the suggestion that passengers are
being relied on to be more involved in the safety and security of the cabin,
and considers that passengers should not be expected to perform these roles as
a matter of first resort. There is no substitute for trained professionals
working in the field of safety and security, and there are many reported
incidents in which passengers have behaved inappropriately or ineffectively.
The Committee considers that an increased rate of survivability in the
case of air crashes does not justify a reduction in the number of cabin crew on
an aircraft. It agrees with the conclusion drawn by the FAAA that greater
survivor rates make efficient and effective evacuations even more important,
and given the likelihood of cabin crew being incapacitated in the event of a
crash, a ratio that provides more potential for able crew to effect an
evacuation should be supported.
The Committee believes that any decision to change Australia’s cabin
crew ratio must be supported by the weight of evidence that there is no
diminution of passenger safety and security. Australia has a strong record in
aviation safety and security, a record that has been preserved through strong
and effective regulation.
While harmonisation with overseas aviation standards is a desirable
outcome, it should not come at the expense of a higher standard. Based on the
limited evidence it received, the Committee is not able to support the claim
that 1:50 ratio is not a downgrade in safety and security. It cannot therefore
support adoption of a 1:50 ratio to fall into line with the United States and
European regulators. In short, the Committee believes the case has not been
The Committee acknowledges the concerns of operators about costs,
however, it also notes the low cost imposition on a per passenger basis and the
evidence presented by the Qantas Group that the cost impacts of the cabin crew
ratio are in fact minimal.
Further, the Committee notes that the issue of cabin crew ratios has
been evaluated by the Parliament in various ways over the last ten years, from
bipartisan agreement in the House of Representatives Chamber, to Senate reports
and discussions in other parliamentary forums. The Committee was very disappointed
to hear that CASA had not taken the wishes of the Parliament into account by
continuing to grant exemptions despite the Parliament expressing a clear
preference for the retention of the 1:36 ratio.
The Committee was pleased to hear that CASA would fully implement its
recommendations, and welcomes CASA’s
willingness to remove the exemptions were it to be directed to do so.
The Committee believes that until the NPRM process is conducted with openness
and transparency, that no further exemptions should be granted. The Committee
will continue to observe the NPRM processes with interest.
||That the Civil Aviation Safety Authority cease providing new
exemptions to the 1:36 cabin crew ratio currently mandated by Civil Aviation
Order 20.16.3, and that all exemptions to the Order currently in place not be
renewed upon expiry.
||That the 1:36 ratio be retained until such a time that it
can be demonstrated that a change to a 1:50 cabin crew ratio in Australia
will not result in reduced levels of safety or security.