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FAA orders more rest between shifts for flight attendants

Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen announces new rule requiring 10 consecutive hours of rest between shifts for flight attendants, in press conference at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va. Photo courtesy of AFA-CWA.
Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen announces new rule requiring 10 consecutive hours of rest between shifts for flight attendants, in press conference at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va. Photo courtesy of AFA-CWA.

Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Airlines will be required to give flight attendants more time off between shifts, starting next year, in a final rule announced Tuesday by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Under the new rule, flight attendants will be given a minimum of 10 consecutive hours to rest, with no exceptions, when they're scheduled to work for 14 hours or less. The FAA published the proposed rule nearly a year ago after Congress mandated increased rest breaks in a 2018 FAA reauthorization.

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"Flight attendants perform critical safety roles. This rule puts them and safety first," acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said at a press conference Tuesday at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

"I'm a pilot, and as any pilot can tell you, we cannot fly the plane without the safety, expertise and support of flight attendants. Flight attendants are trained to take action during emergencies, administer first aid, conduct evacuations and manage medical emergencies," Nolen said.

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The new rule updates a previous requirement of nine consecutive hours of rest between work shifts. Airlines will have 90 days to comply with the expanded directive.

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Many pilots and flight attendants supported the change, saying it would contribute to a healthier workforce that will improve overall safety for passengers and crew.

"Proper rest is critical for flight attendants to do our work as aviation's first responders," Association of Flight Attendants -- CWA President Sara Nelson said in a statement Tuesday.

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House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio had pushed for the new rule along with Sen. Maria Cantwell, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. In 2017, Cantwell, D-Wash., said she regretted that the previous FAA bill had given flight attendants less rest time than pilots.

"Flight attendants perform critical safety roles on behalf of the flying public and have long deserved the same rest periods afforded to pilots," Cantwell said in a statement following Tuesday's announcement.

"Flight attendants, like all essential transportation workers, work hard everyday to keep the traveling public safe, and we owe them our full support," said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. "This new rule will make it easier for flight attendants to do their jobs, which in turn will keep all of us safe in the air."

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