The Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday that the mandatory rest period for flight attendants will be extended, which came after years of advocacy from labor unions.
The new rule will require airlines to give a minimum of 10 hours of rest following a shift of 14 hours or less. Previous rules required in most cases only nine hours of rest. The previous rule also allowed airlines to reduce the rest period to eight hours if the following rest period lasted at least 10 hours.
The rule change has been in the offing for several years. In 2018, Congress directed the FAA to establish a rule increasing the amount of rest for flight attendants. It was not until November 2021 before the FAA announced a proposed rule change. It then took the FAA an additional 11 months to institute the proposal.
The new rule also aligns with rest policies in place for pilots.
"Proper rest is critical for flight attendants to do our work as aviation’s first responders,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.” Today was a long time coming, but it is here. We won’t forget how we achieved this major regulatory change for minimum rest. Flight attendants need this rest to do our jobs. But rest assured, we won’t ever rest in our work to ensure the continued safest transportation system in the world for all of the people within it.”
Acting FAA administrator Billy Nolen said the new rule will improve flight safety.
“Our focus is solely on safety,” Nolen said. “It did take too long, but when I got on board, this has been one of my top priorities.”
Whether this impacts staffing heading into the busy holiday travel season remains to be seen.
“If you look at the data, it is abundantly clear that the majority of delays rest with the airlines,” Nolen said. “We have plans and controls in place when we think about the holiday season, but overall, we feel good about that.”
Airlines for America, a group of airline industry leaders, contended in 2019 that the rule would cost airlines $1 billion to implement over the next decade. The group also told federal regulators that flight attendants may need to change the way they bid for schedules and may have to choose between flying longer at night or flying more days during the month to get the same hours they are getting now, according to the FAA.