Memorandum by Thomsonfly
TUI NE is the UK holding company of the group
of companies that includes the UK tour operator and retailer,
TUI UK Limited and the UK's third largest carrier in terms of
fleet size, Thomsonfly Limited. Thomson Holidays is the main tour
operator brand of TUI UK and is the UK's largest inclusive tour
operator and Thomsonfly carries all Thomson Holiday passengers
and a further 2 million seat only passengers annually.
Thomsonfly is also the largest UK Charter Airline
operating a fleet of 47 aircraft from 26 UK airports to 84 overseas
destinations. Thomsonfly carried 9.5 million passengers in 2006
and operated over 60,000 sectors. Thomsonfly is also a member
of the British Air Transport Association.
Thomsonfly believes the industry has made a
great deal of progress since the original report and the establishment
of the Aviation Health Unit has been a very useful initiative.
There are still a number of areas where Thomsonfly believes the
industry would benefit from more support and timely responses
to queries, from the AHU but generally the unit has provided an
impartial and objective source of information for aviation health.
The CAA's Aviation Occupational Health &
Safety Steering Group (AOHSSG) currently works well with industry
and is the primary contact point for Thomsonfly for many queries
within this area. There is limited understanding as to how the
AHU fits in with the AOHSSG and as the nature of the CAA as an
organisation is one that does not readily volunteer information
we would suggest that the AHU should consider raising its profile
within the industry and should ensure a regular contact program
with the UK based airlines to ensure an increased level of self
Two examples of where we believe the AHU could
be of great assistance to the industry would be the current concern
around fatigue in pilots and the quality of cabin air.
There has been a lot of concern raised about
organophosphates in engine oils and the impact to health if the
air breathed by passengers, flight deck and cabin crew contains
these chemicals. Studies to date have not had independently certified
data and have produced results that are difficult to interpret
and that have not been accepted by the aviation medical fraternity.
Recent media reports (appendix A) have claimed there is overwhelming
evidence and that the industry continues to deny the problem exists.
Airlines are responsible for the health and safety of our staff
and we need conclusive evidence to decide what the main concern
is and how best to look at a solution going forwards. Thomsonfly,
along with many other UK registered airlines would welcome and
would be prepared to actively participate in a properly designed
study into the area of concern. To try and address this issue
Thomsonfly has agreed to voluntarily participate in a study at
Cranfield University on cabin air quality. This study was initially
proposed by the DfT and we believe tests on equipment to be used
are currently being carried out but we believe given the media
interest in this area that more active communication to ensure
the airlines are aware of the process of this trial should be
Thomsonfly believes that the AHU could help
the industry by ensuring this trial takes place and that it takes
place soon. Thomsonfly believes the AHU should work with the industry
and should take the lead in actively addressing issues such as
fatigue and organophosphates before they become "news"
items. A regular dialogue and an attitude of action rather than
reaction could have helped the industry to progress towards solutions
for both of these issues.
Many of the UK airlines employ their own medical
advisor. Thomsonfly has our own medical advisor and although the
Airline Medical Advisors do in fact have regular contact with
the AHU we would appreciate some formal guidance on how medical
advisors fit within the AHU structure. However, Thomsonfly would
not be prepared to give up our own advisor even if this was clarified
as we do not believe the AHU can provide the detailed response,
the level of service, the speed of the service and the understanding
of our business that we currently receive.
Thomsonfly has made great efforts to ensure
the information that is available to travellers is comprehensive.
Thomsonfly includes a video on longhaul flights about DVT and
health whilst travelling on our in flight entertainment, there
is a warning about DVT in brochures, ticket booklets, in flight
magazine and on our website.
The issue of DVT is one that has been associated
with confinement and so Thomsonfly believes a well designed study
that compares, train seats, cinema seats and lorry drivers etc
should be undertaken by the Aviation Health Unit in conjunction
with the industry. This would be of assistance to the industry
and provides the sort of lead on these issues that Thomsonfly
believes the AHU should be taking.
All Thomsonfly aircraft are equipped with first
aid kits and a doctors kit that can only be opened with the captains'
permission, and used by a doctor, paramedic or nurse. In addition
to this Thomsonfly long haul and medium haul aircraft also have
a 24 hour radio link to a medical service (medi-link) that can
be reached in the event of an in flight emergency. This service
will provide information from answering general medical queries
to providing specialist information to crew and medical professionals
to help in a number of medical emergencies and has helped to reduce
the number of emergency diverts by 50%. The short haul aircraft
will usually be able to divert to a local airport in the event
of an onboard emergency.
The same 24 hour medical service is also available
by telephone to crew and engineers when they are overseas and
have a health related query.
We also have a 24 hour holiday line that is
available to customers on holiday where they can obtain advice
on a variety of issues, including how to access local medical
assistance once overseas. As Thomsonfly is the in house airline
for Thomson Holidays, in the event of an in flight medical emergency
we are well placed to be able to co-ordinate rebooking of holidays,
refunds of accommodation costs and being able to provide English
speaking representatives at many of our overseas arrival airports
to deal with friends and families of those passengers who may
have experienced an in flight medical emergency.
Thomsonfly carried over 9.6 million passengers
in 2006 on approx 45,000 flights and we estimate that the medi-link
service was used 3 or 4 times a week. These can range from just
asking a query about a passengers high temperature to a more specialist
area such as a suspected miscarriage.
Defibrillators have also been fitted to all
aircraft in the fleet and all cabin crew are trained and tested
annually on how to use this equipment. The defibrillators are
used on average about five times a year on board the aircraft
and have even been used on a baggage handler who had a heart attack
and also on an air bridge to assist a passenger. Thomsonfly has
noticed an increase in the number of deaths on board that has
risen from about two passengers a year in the 1990s to about four
a year. There has been significant growth in passenger numbers
which would account for a proportion of this increase but it is
still import to note this increase occurred even though Thomsonfly
has fitted defibrillators and should be considered if the decision
to make defibrillators a mandatory item is being discussed.
Thomsonfly also makes regular public announcements
during the flight to ensure passengers look after their health
during a Thomsonfly flight. These announcements encourage passengers
to move their legs and drink lots of water, on our long haul aircraft
water fountains are fitted for the convenience of the passengers.
We also encourage passengers to walk around the cabin when the
seat belt signs have been switched off but remind them that if
the captain switches the seat belt sign back on they must return
to their seats.
Thomsonfly will also be purchasing the new 787
aircraft which has an improved internal environment which has
been designed by Boeing to improve a passengers experience and
enjoyment of the flight. The cabin environment has larger windows
and has a greater feeling of openness and airiness that should
improve the passengers' experience.
A new health concern that has risen since the
last report is the issue of flu pandemic and communicable diseases.
Thomsonfly has been fully involved in governmental discussions
on formulating the NHS plan and the potential concerns surrounding
air travel as well as ensuring our own flu pandemic plan is in
place and senior staff are aware of its content. We do however
believe the AHU should consider looking at communicable diseases
and providing reasoned advice to airlines on what further measures
could be taken to reduce any spread either during a pandemic or
in the rare occasion that we would undertake a medical evacuation
All aircraft are deep cleaned after medical
evacuation flights but it is during the actual flight that Thomsonfly
feels some further investigation undertaken now might benefit
the industry within the next few years.
Thomsonfly believes the industry has made some
significant advances since the previous report. The number of
passengers requiring medical assistance do remain low as the numbers
of instances that require use of the medi-link service show.
Thomsonfly would be happy to assist the Committee
in providing further evidence if so required.
29 June 2007