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If the rules permit pilots to fly after 22 hours awake, then airlines "will roster their pilots to fly those hours", said a union representative for airline staff.
British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) General Secretary Jim McAuslan hinted the change to hours had come about from industry lobbying, rather than the pilots' best interests.
The European Commission (EC) defended reforms to flying laws proposed by the European Union and said it would "not result in lowering the safety standards of any member state".
The public backed concerns around the number of hours pilots are allowed to fly under potential EU laws, the British Airline Pilots Association has said.
The union questioned over 2,000 adults on proposed changes to flying rules after their members voiced concerns over pilots operating flights with two rather than three members.
Nine out of 10 of those questioned shared pilots fears over the length of time they were allowed to fly, as well as being awake for 22 hours if standby was included, and working up to seven starts in a row.
Jim McAuslan, Balpa's general secretary, said: "Evidence shows this is similar to being four times over the legal alcohol limit for flying.
"The time is running out for our ministers, MEPs, the UK regulator and MPs to take urgent action and reject these unsafe EU rules to ensure that the skies above Britain remain among the safest in the world."