Most Americans can combat that early morning tired feeling with a good ‘ol cup (or two or three) of joe. But not every worker has the luxury of being able to get by on espresso alone. Flight attendants — who are responsible for the safety of airline passengers — need much more: a minimum of 10 hours of rest between flights.
For far too long, this basic protection — which was afforded to passenger pilots in 2011 — has eluded our nation’s flight attendants. That’s why I was proud to stand with flight attendants and other aviation workers in our nation’s capital today at a Rally for Rest, led by the AFA-CWA. The call was loud and clear: Congress must include a minimum 10-hour rest period for flight attendants in the next version of the FAA Reauthorization Bill.
The sad truth is, fatigue has long plagued our transportation system and it’s a problem flight attendants know all too well. Federal law currently requires flight attendants receive nine hours of rest between shifts, but the airline industry routinely manipulates this rule. That nine-hour window is often whittled down to eight. By the time flight attendants deplane passengers, exit the airport, make it to a rest facility, then wake in time to perform the duties for the next flight, they’re running on five hours of sleep — sometimes less.
In the event of an in-flight emergency, do you want the person charged with your safety and security running on fumes?
Multiple studies have shown that the best way to combat fatigue among flight attendants is to change the rules that govern rest periods. For years, our nation’s flight attendants have taken on the powerful airline lobby to push for this common-sense, science-backed proposal, and their perseverance has paid off.
By a voice vote, lawmakers on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization bill that included a minimum 10-hour rest requirement for flight attendants and mandated a fatigue risk management plan (FRMP) for these workers. While the Senate version of the FAA bill, as introduced, contained a slight change in mandated rest requirements, it did not include the full 10 hours of rest we know is needed. Also missing was language requiring a FRMP. But earlier today, as the Rally for Rest was in full swing, the Senate Commerce Committee adopted an amendment that inserted a FRMP into the pending FAA bill.
For our nation’s flight attendants, this was a huge step forward, but our work in not done. We will insist that the Senate bill be further amended to include a minimum of 10 hours of rest.
Changing minimum rest requirements for these workers isn’t about asking for a handout or requesting special treatment. A minimum 10-hour rest period for flight attendants is about safety. The fact of the matter is, no flight attendant, no matter how experienced, can be expected to perform their duties to the best of their abilities without adequate rest and recovery time.
Until our nation’s flight attendants have the rest period they need and deserve, TTD and our aviation affiliates will continue to push for this common-sense, science-backed measure.