Last fall, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 — proof that Washington can still get things done and that bipartisan agreement is achievable on key transportation issues.
This long-term reauthorization bill made critical investments in our nation’s airports and air traffic control network, and supported the work of FAA employees dedicated to safe and efficient air travel. The final legislation also contained a number of provisions long fought for by frontline aviation workers and their unions.
That’s the good news. The bad news?
Nearly a year after this bill was enacted, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) still have not implemented key components of this legislation – components that will improve safety for passengers and workers alike. New rest rules for flight attendants, measures to protect customer service agents from assault, secondary security barriers on commercial aircraft, and safety standards for foreign repair stations have all been mandated but need action from this Administration to actually take effect.
TTD’s Executive Committee highlighted these missed deadlines earlier this year and we committed ourselves to raising the alarm as regulators failed to act on these safety mandates. Now Members of Congress are taking notice as well.
This Thursday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation will hold a hearing on the FAA Reauthorization Act’s implementation and you can bet overdue safety rules will be on the agenda. Two TTD affiliates, the Air Line Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants, will be testifying.
We’ll be there live-tweeting the event (follow us at @TTDAFLCIO) and wanted to share this preview of some of the issues that will be discussed:
Ten hours of rest for flight attendants
Multiple studies have shown the best way to combat fatigue among flight attendants is to change the rules that govern rest periods. That’s exactly what lawmakers did in the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act.
Congress gave DOT 30 days to modify current rest rules and grant flight attendants a minimum of 10 hours of rest between 14-hour duty periods. Lawmakers also required air carriers to submit to the FAA fatigue risk management plans within 90 days of the legislation passing. Yet, nearly a year after the bill’s passage, our nation’s flight attendants are still waiting for the federal rest protections they need and deserve.
Mitigating customer service assaults
A recent GAO report highlighted what airline customer service agents (CSAs) already know: they are being assaulted by the passengers they serve at alarming rates. The report found that nearly all customer service agents interviewed had been verbally assaulted. More than thirty percent had experienced either physical assault or attempted physical assault while on the job.
Congress directly addressed this issue by mandating air carriers to develop and submit to DOT for approval plans for mitigating violent and abusive incidents against CSAs, and to update training procedures accordingly. Lawmakers gave air carriers 90 days to meet these requirements, but once again DOT has failed to enforce this provision, placing CSAs at continued risk just for showing up and doing their jobs.
Secondary barriers for cockpits
The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 mandated a post-9/11 security feature, secondary cockpit barriers, on all newly manufactured aircraft. These lightweight, retractable barriers are designed to provide an extra layer of protection by separating the flight deck door from the passenger cabin when pilots need to enter and exit the cockpit during a flight.
Congress was explicit in its language and deliberately chose to apply this mandate to all new passenger aircraft coming off the production line. Yet, efforts are underway to water down this mandate by claiming the barriers should only apply to new aircraft models – exempting newly manufactured planes of existing types and models. Such a move would significantly delay this safety requirement, undermine the purpose of this provision, and jeopardize a key aviation security protocol.
Ending the double standard in aviation maintenance outsourcing
The FAA is also long overdue in implementing policies that would ensure one standard for all aircraft repair work, regardless of where that work is performed. Despite clear directives from Congress in 2012 and again in 2016, the FAA still has not implemented drug and alcohol testing programs for foreign repair station workers. The agency has also failed to ensure that foreign repair station employees who perform safety-sensitive work undergo pre-employment background investigations, which Congress dictated in 2016.
The FAA’s refusal to implement these basic measures has created a double standard in the aviation maintenance industry that potentially undermines safety and security and incentivizes airlines to outsource this work to foreign facilities. Read our letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao urging implementation of these mandates.