New European rules allowing airlines to keep long-haul pilots on standby for longer hours are causing concern amongst UK consumers, a poll shows.

A survey for the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) found that 89% of people would be concerned at the effect the planned rule changes would have on pilot fatigue.

A vote of the European harmonisation regulations covering the limitations of pilot flights times is due to be voted on by MEPs on October 24.

Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan told The Times yesterday: “The British public are understandably concerned about their pilots being awake for 22 hours before landing a plane under new EU rules.

“Evidence shows this is similar to being four times over the legal alcohol limit for flying.”

The union says the regulations could allow a long-haul pilot, up at 6am and scheduled to fly a 12-hour service at 8am, being pressed into service to fly at 4pm after an eight-hour delay to the flight, landing at the equivalent of 4am the next morning, the newspaper reported.

Current UK rules cap the length of duty time and landing an aircraft to 18 hours.

A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said: “We think the new European flight-time limitation regulations maintain the UK’s current high safety levels and will actually increase safety for UK passengers travelling on some other European airlines.

“This view is informed by expert opinion based on scientific principles, operational knowledge and regulatory oversight information.”