Brussels Airlines strike: is it reasonable? A former flight attendant’s testimony

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As a former flight attendant, flying on medium-haul, I’ve experienced firsthand the challenges and demands of working in the aviation industry: the relentless pursuit of cost reduction and profit maximisation has often come at the expense of the well-being and safety of aviation professionals. Throughout my career, I encountered numerous obstacles related to workload, scheduling, and fatigue, which significantly impacted my well-being and quality of life. 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented changes to the airline industry, leading to increased demands on employees. Flight schedules at the airline were generated by computer algorithms, often resulting in gruelling workdays with minimal rest between flights. Despite working only part-time, 12-14 days per month, the intensity of most of the shifts left me feeling exhausted and drained.

There were instances when I knew I wasn’t fit to fly, despite being in good health. The relentless schedule and lack of adequate rest periods, mostly in the busier Summer seasons, took a toll on my physical and mental health. I raised concerns about the impact of fatigue on crew members’ ability to perform their duties safely, but these concerns often fell on deaf ears.

Over the years, the demands of the work also changed: the introduction of personal tablets/iPads/laptops, while a useful tool for preparing flights, paradoxically increased the feeling of obligation to remain connected to work even during precious moments at home. While it streamlined certain tasks, it also added to the burden of constant connectivity, blurring the boundaries between professional and personal life and further exacerbating the challenges of achieving a sense of balance and well-being.

While I initially (and overall) found great joy in being a flight attendant, the landscape of the job changed significantly over the years. Unhappy passengers, exacerbated by delays and unforeseen circumstances, became a common occurrence.

Brussels Airlines has maintained that it has reached its limits in terms of concessions to the Unions, citing ongoing struggles after the COVID-19 crisis. The airline emphasises the need to generate profits to sustain operations and satisfy its owner, Lufthansa Group. This stance, while understandable from a business perspective, underscores the complex dynamics at play within the aviation industry.

In my opinion, airlines need to prioritise the health, safety, and well-being of their employees by implementing policies that address issues related to workload, scheduling, and fatigue. It’s crucial to recognise the vital role that unions play in advocating for the rights and well-being of (airport/aviation) employees.

By sharing my story, I hope to raise awareness and advocate for meaningful reforms that ensure a safer and more sustainable work environment for all aviation professionals.

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