Federal regulators are proposing more rest for flight attendants. A new rule requires an extra hour between their shifts. Congress approved such a change in 2018. However, the regulation never got implemented.
Rest is a gracious gift to humans from an all-wise Creator. “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,” Psalm 127:2 says, “. . . for He gives to His beloved sleep.” Workers—especially those who labor in stressful service environments—need to be fresh. Flight attendants are on the front lines of dealing with passengers’ comfort and safety. And sometimes impatient or fatigued fliers can become unruly and unkind. The job requires quick thinking and lots of patience: two things that a lack of sleep can rob a worker of.
Current rules require flight attendants to have nine straight hours of rest between shifts. That can be shortened to eight hours under some circumstances. Congress passed a law in 2018 that directed the FAA to increase the mandatory rest period. But FAA officials missed a deadline for publishing the regulation, so the rule fell by the wayside.
The Federal Aviation Administration is now proposing that flight attendants get 10 consecutive hours of rest between shifts. The proposal does not change the current 14-hour limit on a flight attendant’s work day.
The airline industry opposes the change. Airlines for America, a trade group for the largest U.S. carriers, estimates that the rule could add $786 million in costs over 10 years to its carriers. Those carriers currently employ about two-thirds of all U.S. flight attendants.
On the other side, flight-attendant unions have lobbied for more rest.
“Flight attendant fatigue is real,” says Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. “Covid has only [worsened] the safety gap with long duty days, short nights, and combative conditions on planes.”
The FAA plans to provide 60 days for public comment. After the final rule is published, airlines will have 30 days to comply with it. So hopefully, the flight attendant on your next trip will feel well rested—and ready to bring you that tiny bag of pretzels with a big smile.
(An American Airlines flight attendant hands out snack bags aboard a Boeing 737 Max jet before taking off from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport near Grapevine, Texas. The FAA says flight attendants should get more rest between shifts. AP/LM Otero)