Members of the European Parliament have pushed through new proposals on flight-duty limitations, rejecting transport committee opposition to the change.

While the transport committee, in a preceding ballot, had voted against the proposed changes to flight crew duty rules, the Parliament has approved them.

European airline representatives have welcomed the vote in favour.

The Association of European Airlines states that the new unified rules are the "strictest in the world" and that the vote means the "last obstacle...has been removed".

Acting secretary general Athar Husain Khan says the association has supported the European Aviation Safety Agency's efforts to develop the new flight-duty limitation regulations and the vote is a "crucial milestone".

"We applaud that, despite misleading information on pilots' fatigue, members of the European Parliament realised that one, harmonised set of rules for the common aviation market will benefit passengers' safety," he adds.

The result has, predictably, generated intense concern from pilot unions.

UK cockpit group BALPA is urging the government to demand a ministerial vote from the European Council and, if that fails, to "repatriate" the rule in order to retain UK standards.

"Alongside this, BALPA will be seeking an urgent investigation into current levels of severe tiredness among pilots under the existing high quality standards," says the union.

The European Cockpit Association describes the adoption of the European Commission's proposal "disappointing".

It had lobbied hard against the changes, with secretary general Philip von Schöppenthau stating: "These rules should be nothing but safe, scientifically-underpinned and based on best practices.

"This is not the case today and we have seen no commitment by the Commission to genuinely improve its proposal.”