LONDON – On Tuesday, October 4, Federal Aviation Officials publicly announced that flight attendants will get a greater rest period between flights. At present, the rules state that if an attendant has been on duty for 14 hours or less, then they are entitled to a nine-hour rest period.
Time For Change
This announcement, which airlines were made aware of by the FAA last week, has increased the minimum rest period to ten hours. The change to rule comes after long hard lobbying from flight crew unions, who say that some attendants can be heavily fatigued and overworked after shifts potentially as long as 14 hours.
United States Transportation Secretary Pete Buttgieg said this of the change in rules: “Flight attendants, like all essential transportation workers, work hard every day to keep the travelling public safe, and we owe them our full support, this new rule will make it easier for flight attendants to do their jobs, which in turn will keep all of us safe in the air.”
The change to the rules was initially approved by congress as far back as 2018 but had not been put in place under Donald Trump’s administration. Now, under the Biden administration, this has been given the green light.
The FAA has since reviewed one thousand comments on the matter over two public comment periods held in 2019 and 2021. Taking on board the views of flight attendants themselves, airlines and the public.
New Rules Needed More Than Ever
Sarah Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants said: “It’s about time! As aviation’s first responders and last line of defence, it is critical that we are well rested and ready to perform our duties, Covid has only exacerbated the safety gap with long duty days, short nights, and combative conditions on planes.”
“Flight attendants perform critical safety roles. This rule puts them and safety first,” said Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen.
With a spike in demand and some airlines getting back to pre-pandemic levels of passengers, this ruling could not have come at a better time. As some airlines still continue their hiring initiative spurred on by increased levels of travellers, existing flight attendants may be feeling the effects of airlines being under-resourced.
Allie Malis, a government affairs representative at the Association of Professional Flight Attendants told of an uncomfortable situation where delayed crew on incoming flights found themselves running through airports in a bid to ensure they make their next job. This is on top of already sporadic schedules working long and potentially unsociable hours.
Although this is a mandate being introduced in the United States by the FAA, these issues are not specific to the States themselves. Kris Major, a British flight attendant explained this of absence levels in the UK: “Sickness levels have gone through the roof, fatigue levels have gone through the roof, not because flight attendants are rejecting or protesting in any way. It’s just that they can’t cope – they just can’t cope with the constant changes.”
The final rule will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.