Passengers reject single-pilot flights: new polling


The vast majority of Australians would feel less safe and be more hesitant to book a ticket for a flight with only one pilot, new polling reveals.

Commercial airline flights are currently required to have at least two pilots – but some airlines, manufacturers and regulators are exploring reduced-crew and single-pilot operations in order to cut costs.

However, new data released by the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) shows reducing the number of pilots on a flight deck would be extremely unpopular with the public.

A total of 89% of Australians would feel less safe boarding a flight with one pilot at the controls instead of two or more, according to a Redbridge Group poll of 1,022 Australian adults.

That includes 65% who would feel much less safe and a further 24% who would feel a little less safe. Only two per cent would feel safer.

The polling also revealed:

  • 83% would be more hesitant to book a commercial airline ticket if they knew there was only one pilot at the controls.
  • 88% believe Australian airlines should rule out single pilot operations for commercial flights.
  • 88% believe the Australian government should mandate at least two pilots on the flight deck at all times for all commercial airline flights operating within Australian airspace.
  • Only 21% of Australians are aware of the push to reduce the required number of pilots on a flight deck.

“It’s clear the Australian public is fiercely opposed to single-pilot flights – and they have good reason,” said Captain Tony Lucas, AIPA President.

“Flying is the safest mode of transport because airlines have redundancy in the form of at least two engines, electric and hydraulic systems, flight management computers, and, crucially, two pilots.

“A single pilot could become incapacitated, fatigued or simply overwhelmed in an emergency at 35,000 ft and 950 km/h.

“Reducing the number of pilots required on the flight deck undoubtedly reduces safety margins for the passengers, crew and the wider public.

“This polling shows the public understands that, and therefore any airline which decides to adopt reduced-crew operations stands to lose customers to competitors offering a safer trip.

“The only safe way to fly is with at least two well-trained and well-rested pilots at the controls at all times.”

Several airlines including Cathay Pacific and Luthfansa are working on reduced crew operations. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is also working with manufacturers to study the regulatory changes required for reduced crew and single pilot operations.

On 27 March 2023, a collection of pilots’ unions from around the world formed a global Coalition against single pilot operations. In a strongly worded statement, the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) said “an aggressive corporate-led lobbying campaign was targeting regulators around the world” to try to make single-pilot operations a reality. The campaign can be accessed at the website:


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