FAA proposes an increase in rest period for flight attendants

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T1025ALASKAFLIGHTATTENDANTS_C_HR [credit: Alaska Airlines]
Under current regulations, airlines can require a flight attendant to work a 14-hour shift, then return to work for another 14-hour shift after nine hours off. Photo Credit: Alaska Airlines

The FAA has moved forward with a long-anticipated proposal to increase the required rest period between shifts for flight attendants to 10 hours. 

The proposal, which is championed by flight attendant unions, comes pursuant to a congressional mandate in the October 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, which had called for the DOT to write a 10-hour rest requirement into federal code within 30 days. 

Under current regulations, airlines can require a flight attendant to work a 14-hour shift, then return to work for another 14-hour shift after nine hours off, and in some cases after only eight hours. 

In June, the DOT, which oversees the FAA, identified completing the extended-rest rule as one of its regulatory priorities for 2021

The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposal after it is published in the Federal Register. If the rule becomes final, airlines will have 30 days to comply. 

"Flight attendants play a critical safety role in keeping passengers safe on every flight and especially in emergencies," FAA administrator Steve Dickson said in a prepared statement. "This proposal helps reduce fatigue so they can perform this critical role."

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which is the largest U.S. flight attendants union, applauded the FAA's action but also said the union wouldn't rest until the rule becomes final. 

"Flight Attendant fatigue is real. It is documented with congressionally mandated fatigue studies and other major health studies," Nelson said. "Covid has only exacerbated the safety gap with long duty days, short nights and combative conditions on planes."

The trade group Airlines for America (A4A) declined to comment on the extended-rest rule. In a public comment filing in 2019, A4A said that extending the required time between flight attendant shifts to 10 hours would cost U.S. airlines more than $1 billion over 10 years. 

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