The right to disconnect

The Right To Disconnect in Aviation

The boundaries between work and personal life in the aviation industry are becoming increasingly blurred, especially where crew members are often expected to be available around the clock. The issue is that this demands a level of accessibility that extends far beyond the established work periods.

You have roster changes!” will most likely send shivers down the spine to any pilot or cabin crew. It typically indicates work-related and, therefore, life-related schedule changes as a result of airline requirements, whether due to delays, a lack of staffing, or even poor planning.

But how are these changes notified?

Normally, these events are outlined in the airline operations manuals. The unfortunate reality is that employers’ policies can and often take advantage of how and when these notifications are sent out, disregarding EASA’s FTL and local labor regulations (or collective labor agreement provisions) and ultimately affecting the well-being of crew members. Here are some of the most common notification methods and potential ways to protect yourselves.

Smartphone Applications

Airlines employ dedicated applications or scheduling platforms such as AIMS, Roster Buster, etc., which push notifications to crew members’ smartphones. These apps are designed for convenience but inadvertently encourage continuous engagement with work matters through real-time push notifications outside designated working hours. Once the app shows your employer that you have been “notified“, the obligation to accept the new duty may be considered fulfilled.

It’s important for crew members to realize that they cannot be forced to install these applications on personal devices. These mobile applications may only be required on company-issued devices and must provide the option to deactivate all notifications outside of duty periods. Your rest period must be just that—not an on-call 24/7 reserve assignment. Operators must ensure proper staffing and stable rosters for their operations, which include adequate reserves at predetermined times.

Company or personal emails

This continuous flow of information means that employees may be required to stay engaged and responsive even during their off-duty hours. Strict regulations should govern the email checking requirements, permitting limited changes only under specific conditions and within pre-notified roster periods.

Airlines may have different designated rules for crews to check emails, but remember, there might be more to this than meets the eye. There may already be rules in place governing when, how, and what changes can be communicated via email, which may also sometimes clash with other regulations that strictly prohibit altering the first day of duty. Local regulations are key to figuring out your labor rights and guaranteeing free time.

Phone Calls

Positive phone calls are usually the primary and most commonly accepted form of legal notification. However, conflicts arise when airlines start abusing this practice and expect crew members to be constantly and instantly reachable. The airline dispatch center should limit calls to duty hours instead of duty days, and although not always possible, you should keep in mind that you have the right to switch off your device when you are released to rest.

Furthermore, requiring crew members to be contactable without providing work devices not only violates local regulations but also raises significant concerns regarding GDPR protections and the fundamental right to disconnect.

Airlines cannot require the use of private devices and numbers for company purposes.

“I had to start blocking company numbers to prevent them from contacting me outside of duty hours. It felt like harassment, especially when they used unknown numbers to inform me about a change in schedule or to ‘kindly’ offer me a duty on my day off,” disclosed Ana (n. alias used to protect identity), a member of FPUR.

In this context, FPU Romania has decided to formally address this matter with the relevant authorities. Our legal team is investigating the issues regarding the right to disconnect, harassment, and other privacy violations. This debate could ultimately reach Europe’s highest courts, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive and standardized response to this complex issue within the aviation industry.

SMS Notifications

The concept of crew members working in good faith is typically associated with the flexibility required to guarantee smooth operations and a hassle-free experience for passengers.

Unfortunately, some airlines may also consider SMS text messages as a sufficient method of notifying crew members, relying solely on the delivery report without considering other aspects. While delivery reports are essential, a read-report must also be required to ensure acknowledgement on the part of the crew member.


Remember, anyone can put anything into writing. Whether it is legal or not is a different story. Just because your company is using a questionable practice doesn’t mean that it has the right to do so.

If you have a company-issued device, you can either turn it off outside of duty periods or mute all notifications to prevent unwanted changes. If you do not have a company device, you can formally request from the company data officer under GDPR that your personal information be deleted (phone number and personal email address) and that you are not contacted again. The fines for GDPR violations are substantial and are bound to yield results.

You should contact your local labor inspectorate and general data protection agency in your country regarding the concrete regulations and requirements. Most often, low-cost carriers employ a single strategy across the multiple countries they operate in, possibly violating your local rights and protections.

Overall, staying connected is important for all of us, but we must also be careful about our downtime, rest, and work-life balance. Feel free to reach out to our team if you need any help concerning your employer’s notification policy.

Read also Investigating Health and Safety Oversight at Wizz Air

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