Ramadan and Aviation: Pakistan’s PIA advises pilots, cabin crew against flying while fasting

In a recent development, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has issued a directive prohibiting pilots and air hostesses from observing fasts during flights. The safety advisory was issued to staff members on March 8, 2024.

The decision comes in the wake of safety concerns raised by Corporate Safety Management and the Aircrew Medical Center.

The advisory, disseminated via a circular, emphasizes the potential risks associated with fasting while operating flights. It underscores that fasting can compromise individuals’ ability to make sound judgments and react effectively in emergency situations.

The notification highlights concerns such as hypoglycemia, dehydration, diminished reflexes, impaired decision-making, and decreased stamina, all of which could jeopardize the safety of passengers and crew alike.

“After considering all the factors objectively, it would be clear that flying while fasting is not only risking your own life but that of others too, in the aircraft and on the ground,” the PIA said. “It is, therefore, necessary that all those cockpit/cabin crew who are observing fast are advised “NOT” to fly.”

The PIA further said that if any licensed pilot or crew member is aware or has reasonable grounds to believe that their physical condition has deteriorated, even if only temporarily due to a minor ailment or by a period of fasting, they shall not perform their duties until they are satisfied that their condition has improved. “It is advised that cockpit crew/cabin crew should refrain from fasting,” the national flag carrier said.

The circular cites Civil Aviation Rules (CARs) 1994 rule 41(3), which expressly prohibits crew members from exercising their flight privileges while fasting. The crew member “shall not exercise the privileges of his licence if he is aware that his capacity to efficiently perform his duties is likely to be impaired by a decrease in his medical fitness, or by a period of fasting,” according to the clause.

PIA Premier aircraft is equipped with LCD screens and inflight entertainment with 250 channels on offer
PIA Premier aircraft is equipped with LCD screens and inflight entertainment with 250 channels on offer. (Image Credit: PIA)

PIA spokesperson have confirmed the issuance of the directive and emphasized the airline’s commitment to ensuring compliance with safety protocols.

In light of the directive, pilots and air hostesses are encouraged to plan their fasting schedules around their flight duties to ensure optimal safety and operational efficiency.

The decision has received mixed reactions from within the aviation community. While some commend the airline’s proactive stance on safety, others have raised concerns about the potential infringement on individuals’ religious freedoms. However, experts have supported the decision taken to ensure safety of all individuals onboard, adding that “In the event of an emergency, split-second decisions and swift actions can make all the difference between a safe landing and a potential disaster.”

Awareness on Ramadan Fasting and Aviation Safety

The month of Ramadan holds significant religious importance for Muslims worldwide, marked by the observance of fasting from dawn to sunset.

While fasting is a obligatory for Muslims and a deeply revered practice, the Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan (CAA) aims to shed light on the potential risks it poses to aiation safety.

Fasting during Ramadan brings about positive physiological changes in the body, such as improvements in lipid profile and blood glucose levels. However, aviation personnel who observe fasts may experience a range of symptoms including decreased alertness, increased fatigue, irritability, anxiety, impaired memory, decreased work performance, and symptoms of hypoglycemia. These symptoms can significantly compromise the safety and efficiency of flight operations.

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