A new study published in the International Journal of Aerospace Psychology examined the correlation between fatigue and workload in cabin crews, and found perceived workload to be an independent predictor of fatigue.
Cabin crew face workload demands very different from that of pilots, their responsibilities include a lot more physical tasks as well as factors like turbulence, passenger demands, and medical incidents. The need for them to be awake during all meal services also means that they have less time available for significant blocks of rest.
The study evaluated Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS) tailored to the needs of cabin crews on ultra-long haul flights (longer than 16 hours). 55 airline cabin crew wore an actigraph and completed a sleep diary during an ultra-long trip. Before landing, the participants completed a psychomotor performance test and after landing they rated their workload for the flight. They found that on higher workload flight, members of the cabin crew felt more sleepy and fatigued, and were less successful at their psychomotor performance test.
Lead author Margo van den Berg, a PhD candidate at Massey University said, “It is important that the effects of workload in flight should not be viewed in isolation... Cabin crew often experience fatigue as a consequence of their irregular work schedules, which include early starts, late finishes, night work, frequent time zone changes, and long duty periods, causing sleep loss and circadian rhythm disruption. Considering that their most important role is to ensure cabin and passenger safety during flight, cabin crew fatigue and its associated risks needs to be managed carefully.”
As airline cabin crews are responsible for ensuring the safety and comfort of passengers aboard flights, it is important to manage and decrease fatigue-related operational risk.