TThe Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announces that flight attendants will soon have an extra hour of rest between long work days. Between shifts of up to 14 hours, flight attendants will now get a minimum mandatory break of 10 hours instead of nine hours.
“President Biden said today,” says Sarah Nelson, president of the Airline Attendants Association-CWA, the nation’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 the minimum rest with commercial airline pilots.’
But the change was never finalized. “The Trump administration has put our rest on a regulatory path to kill it,” Nelson says. “President Biden promised to make this a top priority to fix, and today under the leadership of Secretary Buttigieg and FAA Acting Administrator Nolen the 10-hour unreduced rest rule 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 finalizing the change was a priority before his impending retirement.
“After a nearly four-year delay, flight attendants — who operate in complex, dynamic and often dangerous work environments — will have the rest they need to perform their duties and enjoy a better quality of life,” DeFazio said today. “I applaud the flight attendants whose years of advocacy pushed Congress to act and ultimately led to today’s new rule.”
“It was about time!” Nelson says of the rule change. “Covid has only exacerbated the safety gap with long duty days, short nights and combat conditions on planes.”
Flight crew unions have fought hard for longer rest periods for years. Just a week ago, thousands of flight attendants marched in picket lines at more than 20 US airports, demanding that airlines address operational problems that have caused flight delays and cancellations and exhausted crews.
Airlines for America, a trade group representing major North American airlines, estimated that the rule change would cost its members $786 million over 10 years for the 66 percent of U.S. flight attendants who work for its members. Specifically, US airlines received $54 billion in pandemic relief.
The FAA reportedly notified airlines last week of the upcoming rule change. While some carriers had previously agreed to give flight attendants longer rest periods, Nelson says it was important to raise the minimum level across the board.