The Mental Health Warning Amongst Aviation Workers

As the UK says farewell to the traffic light system, holiday bookings soar following the latest relaxed travel restrictions for fully vaccinated passengers. All the sudden changes to the travel industry has seen airlines scrambling to get pilots and cabin crew back to work and planes flying again. Have airlines considered the mental health and wellbeing impacts of the Covid- 19 pandemic, has had on aviation workers?


The global pandemic has affected aviation workers more than any other industry sectors, research has shown.  A survey conducted by the, Lived Experience and Wellbeing Project – Trinity College Dublin Hub, that studies aviation worker wellbeing, and the impact on performance and flight safety, published in August 2020 aviation workers suffered more than the general population during the pandemic. Many lost incomes and were forced to sign far inferior contracts, on top of the general pandemic related stressors of isolation, loss of loved one’s and caring for sick relatives.

Paul Cullen, a commercial airline pilot and research associate with the Trinity College team, says “We can’t sweep this under the carpet or dress it up”.

Airlines across the world have started to recruit once again, and re-hire pilots and crew. According to survey data, many will feel depleted as they return to the skies, but wouldn’t disclose a mental health issue to their employer because of the stigmas and fear of losing their job.

Aviation is Very Safe But, Unforgiving

Safety sensitive industries such as aviation, need workers to be in a positive state of well- being.  Aviation requires an organisational culture that protects and respects basic safety, employee well-being and is a caring empathetic workplace. Niven Phoenix, a commercial pilot, who heads Kura Human Factors a company that trains pilots and advises airlines, said “There is a whole host of evidence out there that organisations don’t want to listen to”. Employers are ‘Willfully blind’ when it comes to the well-being of aviation workers, says Phoenix.

Mental Health issues has gained wider attention after German Pilot Andreas Lubitz, deliberately crashed a Germanwings Airbus A320, into a French mountain side in 2015, killing all 150 people on board. The relatives of the passengers on flight 9525, say Lufthansa should have done more to stop him flying after he was diagnosed with mental health problems.

Early Intervention

Experiencing a mental health challenge can be tough, but the longer it takes for somebody to receive help, the more difficult recovery can be. Recognsing signs and symptoms early, especially amongst aviation workers can save lives and avoid tragedy.

Zen Cabin

Here are ten warning signs of a developing mental health situation:

  • Anxiety attacks
  • Anger
  • Personality changes
  • Uncharacteristic behaviour
  • Lack of self-care and tardiness
  • Moodiness and isolation
  • Risky behaviour and self-glorification
  • A sense of hopelessness and social withdrawal
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Rapid weight gain/loss and constant tiredness

For further information on Mental Health, signs and symptoms, and how we can help our loved ones, please refer to the links provided below:

Are you an aviation worker that has suffered with mental health? Do you have any advice for those who might be in a similar situation? Please leave your comments below. 







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Nadeane Smallwood
Nadeane Smallwood
A recent MSc Air Transport graduate, with a passion for aviation, journalism and creative writing. Nadeane is a London based aviation Journalist, with over ten years experience in various roles across the aviation industry and travelled to over 40 countries.


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