The most dangerous part of an airline worker’s job often takes place on the ground, not in the air. While American aviation is safer than ever, many airline employees, especially pilots and flight attendants, lead highly demanding lives with exhausting hours and hectic layovers. According to the Association of Flight Attendants, a union representing more than 50,000 U.S. airline workers, 10 percent of flight attendants miss one or more days of work each year because of injury. This annual rate is considerably higher than the national average of 3.1 percent for all workers. A considerable number of these injuries occur during layovers and ground transit. In many cases, layover injuries are eligible for worker benefits.
Constant travel on the job
When typical employees are injured during the commute to or from work, they are usually not eligible for workers’ compensation. Because airline workers must travel constantly in the course of their jobs, their journeys and layovers are considered a part of their employment. Unlike a typical commuter, a pilot or flight attendant is generally eligible for workers’ compensation during the entire period of travel.
Hazards of travel and layovers
Airline workers may face the possibility of a work-related injury or illness in all of the following situations:
- Travel to and from airports and lodgings
- Forced layovers during periods of severe weather
- Accommodation in substandard hotels or motels
- Unsafe local activities during layovers
Because of airline employees’ demanding schedules, these activities often take place late at night or in a state of considerable sleep deprivation, making them even more dangerous.
Not all appeals are successful
During recent years, a number of injured airline workers have appealed for benefits after layover injuries. Not all of these appeals have been successful. In one notable case, an Illinois pilot filed an application for benefits from Southwest Airlines in 2008 after falling off an unlit dock and injuring his ankle during a night of drinking while on a layover in Tampa. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission ruled that his injury was not a reasonable or foreseeable result of his work as an employee of Southwest Airlines, and his claim was denied. Another Illinois pilot was injured during a layover in Florida in 2009 when his rental car spun out of control on a rain-soaked road. The decision was positive in his case, and he was awarded full benefits for his injury.
Although many layover injuries are fully eligible for workers’ compensation, these cases can be complicated and difficult to decide. Consider speaking with a legal professional today to find out more about Illinois law and how it affects airline workers.