(Reuters) – Lufthansa said on Friday it would introduce new rules requiring two crew members in cockpits at all times, a swift reversal after its CEO said such a change was not needed despite the crash at its Germanwings subsidiary.
The European Union said it would now advise all EU airlines to require two crew members on the flight deck, effectively ensuring that a rule which is already mandatory in the United States will now become the standard inEurope as well.
Within hours of prosecutors disclosing that scenario, several airlines announced immediate changes to their policies to ensure pilots were never left alone in the cockpit.
Lufthansa’s CEO Carsten Spohr initially said he saw no need for such a change, remarks that drew derision on social media, with passengers saying they would not fly. Within a day the company reversed itself.
“The passenger airlines of the Lufthansa Group will put this new rule into place as soon as possible in agreement with the relevant authorities,” Lufthansa said in a statement on Friday.
The Lufthansa Group also includes Germanwings, Austrian Airlines, Swiss and Eurowings.
Crisis communication specialists told Reuters it had been a mistake for Spohr to dismiss the changes so swiftly and categorically.
Under rules already practiced in the United States, whenever either the pilot or co-pilot steps out of the cockpit, a second member of the crew such as a flight attendant is required to enter. A rogue pilot determined to lock the door and set a deadly course would first have to overpower a colleague.
While such a recommendation is not technically mandatory, an airline could be challenged in national courts if it ignores it, an EU official said. Making the recommendation is faster than the process for drawing up new mandatory regulations.
All German airlines have now agreed to the change. German pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit, which had also initially said it would be better to wait for the full crash report before making any changes, welcomed the decision.
Lufthansa also said it was creating a new role of group safety pilot, putting Werner Hass, the man previously in charge of safety only at flagship brand Lufthansa, in charge of safety at all four airlines owned by the group.