European flying hours law passed, despite backlash
European lawmakers have passed a bill to regulate pilots' flying times, despite fierce opposition from both the European Parliament and the U.K. pilots union.
(Read more: Should pilots be allowed to sleep during flights?)
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted in favor of proposals that aim to improve pilots' safety, only days after the Parliament's transport committee rejected the plans.
The bill is part of a move by the European Union (EU) to standardise rules in the aviation sector across the 28-nation bloc.
"These laws were originally brought in by Labour MEPs to put in place minimum safety standards across the EU, including in some countries where no such legislation existed," British Labour MEP Brian Simpson, chairman of the European Parliament's transport committee, said in a statement.
"Not all EU pilots are subject to the stricter rules obeyed by British pilots, so to make U.K. skies safer we need to make sure we have the same standards for all pilots flying through U.K. airspace and into U.K. airports."
But the rules have been met with a fierce backlash from the British Air Pilots' Association, who said the bill was passed after "dodgy last minute backroom deals". The trade union said the plan would endanger the safety of pilots, who would be forced to fly passenger jets for 22 hours, after having already been awake for 22 hours.
"British pilots want to make every flight a safe flight and are deeply concerned that these unsafe new EU rules will put the lives of passenger at risk," said Jim McAuslan, the union's general secretary.
"This has been a botched process by the EU from start to finish. Passengers and pilots deserve flight safety rules based on rigorous science and evidence, not secret dodgy deal making in Strasbourg, which will mean that Britain no longer has the safest skies in Europe," he added.
Some of the rules include the reduction of flight duty time at night by 45 minutes and a fall in the maximum number of flying hours in 12 consecutive months from 1,300 to 1,000 hours.
Only EU heads of government can now stop this bill becoming law across the EU. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, says the law is likely to come into force at the end of 2013, and will become fully applicable two years later.
The vote came after the news that three airline pilots were asleep at the same time in the cockpit of a London-bound passenger plane.
—By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal: Follow him on Twitter @ArjunKharpal