The Biden administration is extending the mandatory rest times for flight attendants to 10 hours, implementing a rule that Congress passed four years ago.
U.S. airlines must implement the new cabin crew rest period, which is currently eight hours, within 90 days under the rule signed by Federal Aviation Administration Acting Administrator Billy Nolen on Tuesday. Pilots currently receive a minimum of 10 hours rest.
“I can tell you first hand that well rested crew members are important to safety,” Nolen said. “Flight attendants are the foundation of aviation’s safety culture starting with cabin safety.”
The extended rest period comes after a challenging few years for flight attendants. The number of unruly passengers onboard flights in the U.S. spiked during the pandemic as people objected to mask mandates and other inflight safety rules. While incidents have fallen in recent months, Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said Tuesday that they remain too high.
“As aviation’s first responders and last line of defense, it is critical that we are well rested and ready to perform our duties,” Nelson said. “Covid has only exacerbated the safety gap with long duty days, short nights, and combative conditions on planes.”
It is unclear whether the extended rest periods will have any impact on airline workforces, which were strained during the peak summer travel period. However, flight attendant staffing was rarely cited as an issue, and the new rule will be implemented during the slower winter season when there is more staffing flexibility.
The extended flight attendant rest period was passed by Congress in the last FAA reauthorization bill in 2018 but not implemented by the Trump administration.