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FAA Extends Rest Periods for Flight Attendants

Bureaucracy and the Conflation of One Hour with Meaningful Change

The FAA has issued a final rule requiring that flight attendants receive longer periods of rest between crew-assignments. The new rule increases the inter-duty-day rest period from nine to ten consecutive hours.

The measure also fulfills the requirements of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, by which the agency was directed to increase the minimum rest period for flight attendants with scheduled duty days of 14 hours or less, and eliminate a provision that permitted rest to be reduced under certain circumstances.

The new rule was predicated in part upon remarks received during two public comment periods totaling more than 105 days during which the FAA reviewed over one-thousand comments from flight attendants, airlines, and the public.

The final rule will become effective thirty-days after its publication in the Federal Register.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg ingratiatingly remarked: “Flight attendants, like all essential transportation workers, work hard every day to keep the traveling 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.”

Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen added: “Flight attendants perform critical safety roles. This rule puts them and safety first.” Mr. Nolan went on to cite 2009’s so-called Miracle on the Hudson, suggesting that two miracles occurred on that day. The first—according to Nolan—was the aircraft landing on the river, and the second was the safe evacuation of all passengers onboard, thanks to the flight attendants.

Association of Flight Attendants president Sarah Nelson opined the rule had been a long time in the making, and alleged flight attendants have been contending with fatigue since the 1980s. Nelson accused the FAA of having been slow to address the matter of flight attendant rest, and suggested the agency in fact did nothing until Congressionally mandated fatigue studies were performed for purpose of illustrating the risks incurred by under-rested flight attendants. Subject studies discovered that fatigue and numerous additional health risks were rampant among flight attendants. Fatigue was determined to contribute to increased risk of cancer, cardiac complications, and respiratory problems for all crew members—not only flight attendants.

When asked why it had taken the FAA over forty-years to address the dangers and hardships disclosed by the fatigue studies, acting administrator Nolen equivocated: "Let me just say, it did take too long. But I can assure you that since I came aboard, and took the acting administrator role, this has been one of my top top-priorities, as of the Secretary's [Pete Buttigieg]. And together we got this done, it took us way too long, but we are finally here."

Reversing herself inexplicably, Nelson lauded the FAA and airlines, declaring her pleasure with the rate at which the final rule was signed, and the alacrity with which the decision had been made. Nelson added that she’d never seen a rule passed in an instance that afforded airlines so little time to implement fundamental change—in the case of the revised flight attendant rest minima, ninety-days.

FMI. www.faa.gov

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