The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is announcing that flight attendants will soon get an extra hour of rest time between long workdays. Between shifts of up to 14 hours, flight attendants will now get a minimum mandated break of 10 hours instead of nine hours.
“President Biden delivered today,” says Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the country’s largest labor union of its kind, noting that this change was actually approved by Congress in 2018 after “an overwhelming bipartisan vote to equalize minimum rest with commercial airline pilots.”
But the change was never finalized. “The Trump administration put our rest on a regulatory road to kill it,” Nelson says. “President Biden promised to make this a top priority to correct this and today under the leadership of Secretary Buttigieg and Acting FAA Administrator Nolen the rule for 10 hours irreducible rest for flight attendants is final.”
Late last year, the FAA opened public comment on the proposed change and, last week, House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio said getting the change finalized was a priority before his upcoming retirement.
“After a nearly four-year delay, flight attendants—who operate in complex, dynamic, and often hazardous working environments—will have the rest they need to perform their duties and enjoy a better quality of life,” said DeFazio today. “I applaud the flight attendants whose years of advocacy pushed Congress to act and ultimately led to today’s new rule.”
“It’s about time!” says Nelson of the rule change. “Covid has only exacerbated the safety gap with long duty days, short nights, and combative conditions on planes.”
Flight crew unions have fought hard for a longer rest period for years. As recently as a week ago, thousands of flight attendants marched on picket lines at more than two dozen U.S. airports, demanding that airlines address operational problems that have caused flight delays and cancellations and exhausted their crews.
Airlines for America, a trade group representing major North American airlines, estimated the rule change would cost its members $786 million over 10 years for the 66% of U.S. flight attendants working for its members. Notably, U.S. airlines received $54 billion in pandemic relief.
The FAA reportedly informed airlines last week of the coming rule change. While some carriers had previously agreed to give flight attendants longer rest periods, Nelson says it was important to raise the minimum standard across the board.
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