# Do (or can) pilots observe religious fasts when flying?

This question is about religious fasts like the Muslim Ramadan and others.

Is there a civil aviation regulation about this? Must a pilot eat and drink by the regulations (or abstain from flying), or is this an issue left to the pilot's personal decision?

Obviously if a flight takes long hours and the pilot can't eat and drink, or abstained from eat and drink for long hours before the flight, this can affect the pilot's performance. I don't know enough to say if it can actually impact safety but it is obvious that the claim would not be far fetched.

How is this issue addressed in airlines? For example in Muslim countries where I would expect a significant number of pilots to be Muslims, if a religious fast is widely observed this could be an issue.

• under which jurisdiction? for example, Saudi law might be quite different from the US one. – Federico Sep 1 '17 at 11:05
• For the FAA, it would be covered under FAR 117.5 which requires that each required crewmember positively affirms that they are fit for flight by doing something like in AC-117-3. – Ron Beyer Sep 1 '17 at 12:20
• Aren't travellers exempted from the Ramadan fasting requirements? This is a "heard from a friend" (who had lived in Saudi Arabia) sort of reference, but he said that those who were travelling weren't required by the Ramadan rules to fast. Many Terry can confirm? – Ralph J Sep 1 '17 at 16:13
• The use of the word civil rather than federal suggests UK law but would be good to get answers from some major authorities around the world. – Notts90 supports Monica Sep 1 '17 at 18:46
• @Notts90 "Civil aviation regulations" just means "regulations concerning civil aviation" (as opposed to "regulations concerning military aviation.") The term is used more or less worldwide, including in the name of the worldwide organization intended to coordinate such regulations between countries, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO.) The term doesn't really suggest any particular country's regulations in itself. – reirab Oct 6 '17 at 15:25

Yes, they can fast, and it appears that many Muslim pilots are doing it. There is no explicit rule forbidding it. Pilots are required to maintain their working ability, but this leaves some room for interpretation.

On the other hand side, there are exceptions that allow Muslims to suspend fasting under certain circumstances. One of these rules concerns travelers. If such an exception is applied, the person is required to make up these days after the official end of the Ramadan. Many Muslim pilots actually do suspend Ramadan during their duty.

• can you provide a source for your statements? – Federico Sep 15 '17 at 14:07
• @Jenc - "easy to find on the internet" is not really what we're going for at the SE sites. The preference is to have the information here with a link to the source (since sources can go dead at any time). – FreeMan Sep 15 '17 at 19:01
• you're still missing references for - "Many Muslim pilots actually do suspend Ramadan during their duty." - "There is no explicit rule forbidding it." (have you checked all possible jurisdictions?) - "many Muslim pilots are doing it" – Federico Sep 17 '17 at 12:31
• Although this answer seems quite good, it may still be improved by adding links and references to support your answer and also to provide further reading. – Manu H Sep 18 '17 at 12:17
• @Jenc have you found your references? – Federico Nov 7 '17 at 9:46

There is no general answer for this question. Do pilots observe religious fasts during flying? Some do, as this article notes:

... although Islam gave permission or leeway to break fast if one found it tiring during the flight, most pilots and cabin crew still chose to fast.

“So, I fasted for 10 hours 50 minutes, compared to 13 hours 42 minutes in Kuala Lumpur and 11 hours 11 minutes in Melbourne. Much shorter time than fasting in Melbourne, isn’t that interesting?

“However, on June 29, 2016, I will be flying to Jeddah. Jeddah residents will be fasting for 14 hours, 54 minutes while KL residents will fast for 13 hours 43 minutes. I will probably have to fast for 17 hours! This is when I have to be really patient. I may break my fast once I have landed.

For the safety of passengers and to ensure a smooth flight, if both pilots are Muslims, they take turns to eat, he said.

However, there is no way to tell for certain how many aircrew observe religious fasting, as this pilot may be talking about that particular airline, for example.

As for Can they observe religious fasting, it depends on the regulation and company policies. Most of the civil aviation authorities don't have anything specifically related to religious fasting, preferring to cover them under fitness for duty, though there is atleast one case where the regulatory authority explicitly forbid fasting.

Indonesia’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation ruled that all safety-sensitive aviation personnel must eat while on duty during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting

The first thing that comes to my mind is the IMSAFE checklist; as a Private Pilot who practices intermittent fasting, I don't see why fasting would be an issue, as long as they can safely perform the tasks that they are required to complete, to the standards that the FAA expects.

• "I don't see why fasting would be an issue". From Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, a UK publication: "Ali showed that fasting reduced cognitive function and explained this in terms of physical fatigue. These results clearly have implications for long-distance drivers, people operating machinery, and the like. [...] A study of road traffic accidents in Saudi Arabia showed a significant increase in the number of accidents during the period of Ramadan." – mins Mar 7 at 3:01
• Thank you for pointing that out! You may also be interested in this article ("[...] the body has been optimized to perform at a high level in the food-deprived state[...]"), or another that suggests something similar ("This metabolic switch [...]is accompanied by [...] adaptations of neural networks in the brain that enhance their functionality"). I think the jury is still out on this, but it should be noted there are different types of intermittent fasting. It will have its greatest negative impact if you are not used to it. – AaronJPung Mar 10 at 18:40
• I'll add another resource -- particularly point 8 -- for anybody else who is interested in this conversation in the future – AaronJPung 2 days ago