The FAA Wants To Update Mandatory Flight Attendant Rest Periods

The FAA wants to up the mandatory rest requirement for cabin crew between shifts. The federal regulatory body said Thursday it is seeking a ten-hour minimum – a rule that will increase safety on board as well as safeguard the health and wellbeing of flight attendants. However, it will end up costing airlines a pretty penny.

The FAA Wants To Update Mandatory Flight Attendant Rest Periods
US flight attendants may soon be given an additional hour of mandated rest between duty periods. Photo: Getty Images

Additional hiring will be required

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing new rules for flight attendants’ rest periods. Currently, cabin crew must receive nine hours of rest between shifts, although it can be as low as eight under some circumstances. The FAA is now looking to increase the minimum to ten hours, two years after Congress directed the action back in 2018. Some airlines have already applied the ten-hour rule following union negotiations.

Airlines for America, a trade group representing major carriers such as American Airlines, Delta, United, and others, has previously estimated that the measure would cost $786 million over the next ten years. Meanwhile, the FAA estimates that the new rule would make US airlines hire an additional 1,042 cabin crew members. This would amount to additional expenses of $118 million.

Cabin crew 787
After a two-year process, the FAA is finally proposing a minimum of ten hours of rest for cabin crew (rest on board not included). Photo: Getty Images

Needed yesterday

The process now demands a comment period of 60 days. The FAA proposes to make the new rest regulation final another 30 days after the final results have been published. Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants over 17 airlines, said that the additional hour could not come a moment too soon.

“Flight attendant fatigue is real. COVID has only exacerbated the safety gap with long duty days, short nights, and comparative conditions on planes. Congress mandated ten hours of irreducible rest in October 2018, but the prior administration put the rule in process to kill it. We need our ten hours yesterday,” Nelson said in a statement.

She then thanked the current administration members, along with the FAA’s Administrator and House Transportation Committee chairman Peter Defazio for their work in moving the proposition forward. The FAA Administrator, Steve Dickson, was scheduled to testify at a House Transportation subcommittee hearing Thursday.

The FAA Wants To Update Mandatory Flight Attendant Rest Periods
As many as 17% of US flight attendants report having experienced a physical incident over the past ten months. Photo: Getty Images

Hear from aviation’s movers and shakers. Book your free ticket for the Future Flying Forum!

Significant worsening of job enviroment

COVID has significantly impacted the wellbeing of flight attendants all over the world. Quarantine in cramped hotel rooms for those who kept flying, uncertainty and the prospect of joblessness for those who didn’t. And, perhaps particular to the US, the rise of incidents with unruly passengers.

Whether stemming from anti-mask activism or other perceived slights to individual freedoms, over the past year, flight attendants in the US have suffered verbal and even physical abuse at an alarming rate. In a survey conducted by the AFA-CWA in July, 85% of cabin crew had dealt with unruly passengers in 2021. As many as one in five had experienced physical incidents.

European rules for rest

Their colleagues in Europe already have a minimum rest requirement of at least ten or 12 hours. The European Commission states that if the flight duty period (FDP) begins from home, a crew member has the right to a minimum of 12 hours of rest or the same amount of time as the preceding duty period – whichever is greater. If the FDP starts away from the home base, it is the same amount of time as the preceding duty period or ten hours – again, determined by whichever is greater.