Government To Announce New Flight Attendant Rest Rules On Tuesday

Flight attendants are mandatory on commercial aircraft for safety reasons, primarily but not exclusively in the event of an evacuation. Most flight attendants, though, never face true life and death safety issues during their career. While they’re required to perform safety checks, they serve drinks and snacks and listen to customers complain about delays, the quality of the drinks and snacks, and about other passengers.

There are some absolutely brutal schedules that many flights attendants have to work. Flight attendants who used to work 3 days trips may have worked 4 day trips when airlines were short staffed. These longer trips may have had more waiting time between flights, or more running from flight to flight, often with legal minimum rest. Complaints of burnout are common.

Now the federal government is stepping in to mandate more rest.

Flight attendants don’t get nearly the respect at airlines that pilots do. They don’t have the leverage and aren’t in nearly as short supply. An airline can replace flight attendants far more quickly. So brutal schedules are commonplace.

Still, flight attendants are unionized, and work schedules should be part of collective bargaining not government mandate. The FAA excuse for getting involved will be safety, saying flight attendants need more rest to reliably perform safety duties. But the FAA won’t have real evidence that current schedules are unsafe given that commercial air travel is the safest mode of transportation and has become more so decade after decade.

Underlying new rules will be an effort by the administration to intercede in collective bargaining on behalf of unions. That’s a consistent theme for the current administration, and the same reason the Biden administration dithered so long on a Jones Act waiver for emergency supplies to be delivered to Puerto Rico.

Tighter rest rules will mean more flight attendants needed to staff the same flights, which is good for flight attendants unions. Some flight attendants will get schedules they prefer, others will get schedules they like less. The proportion of each will depend on the particulars of the rules released on Tuesday.

The part most people aren’t going to see is that by imposing higher flight attendant costs on airlines through government work rules will limit the pay increases that flight attendants are able to achieve. If an airline can incur certain crew costs, and more of those costs are imposed by government, that’s less money left for raises. Unions will deny it, but this change will mean incrementally slower wage growth.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Does this not mean that, at least in the short term once implemented, that more flight schedules will be reduced by the airlines as the supply of flight attendants will be even less for the current supply of flights?

  2. Like other industries, who is to say the additional costs won’t get passed along to the consumer? Using your logic Gary I suppose that’s why the pilots unions want to keep the higher standards so that there are fewer of them and they won’t have to split the pot of available money among more members, right?

  3. I can think of a lot of jobs that are harder work than a flight attendant, especially today when most are so lazy they do the absolute minimum. Servers in restaurants work harder than flight attendant’s and most don’t make $100K a year as the senior FA’s do today. Construction workers, many factory workers, mechanics, (non airline) etc. bust their butts at least 5 if not 6 or 7 days a week 8 hour minimum and do it for 40 years. Let’s face it, the airline industry is spoiled.

  4. Brutal? Doctors in training used to be forced to work over 100 hours a week. Now it’s 80 hours but this is not a law but rather an accreditation rule that can be broken. They are forced to work all day, then the entire night and the following day, although newer guidelines are to go home a little earlier the second day. So flight attendants are just complainers.

  5. Fatigue is real and dangerous. Air travel is a safe mode of transportation for passengers. There are numerous statistics available to track inflight emergencies, on the job injuries, and overall burnout due to lack of adequate rest. This is a much needed and welcomed addition of regulation from the FAA.

  6. What the FA’s and unions don’t seem to understand is that they are not salary. They are only paid when in flight (when the doors close and they are pushed back) and the pay isn’t great.

    So, FAs who want to make money are going to have problems, especially the newer ones that are at the lower end of the pay scale.

    I like money. I always have and almost always will accept overtime.

    What I’m waiting to see is what happens to a FA that starts her duty day, but the flight is delayed or is cancelled. She is not getting paid her full wages and can’t make it up.

    It will also be interesting because many FAs pick up shifts with no intention of working them and then dump them back into the pool. That might need to stop because other employees will be limited in taking them.

  7. Can someone please explain how and why the number of FA’s will increase per flight. Does that mean a greater number of FAs per aircraft, per flight??

  8. Gary is right; things were much better when slavery was allowed. Although slaves were not paid well because less costs were imposed by government, so there’s the fallacy of the argument. In real life outside of an ivory tower companies who are allowed to treat employees badly simply pocket the savings. Dubai is literally built on this principle.

  9. As part of their training, passenger attendants should work the morning shift at their local diner for a month. Service with a smile, dozens of customers and different orders, coffee cups being filled without being asked. They have no idea what service work is. Oh, right, there for our safety.

  10. @Markets are always right:

    Slaves were not paid..period full stop….and still aren’t in those
    areas where slavery still exists just underd more benign names,i.e. forced labor

    Suffice it to state..striking and quitting were/are not allowed

  11. A lot of these comments are wrong and most people don’t understand a flight attendant’s work schedule. Majority of Flight attendants work 16 hour days and about 10 hours of that day is unpaid labor. They cross multiple time zones in a single day. You couldn’t understand the exhaustion. They are away from home 3-4 days with less than 12 hours of rest in between those days. They have been awake before you even start your day. I would love to see half you evacuate an aircraft in 90 seconds or even know how to operate the aircraft door. You couldn’t even operate the exit doors properly if needed. Can you locate and properly use the safety equipment on board. Most people are tightening their seatbelts during turbulence while they are handling a 200+ pound cart in the aisle. Flight attendants are so useless until you need them for something or you have an emergency. Pilots are only flying the plane for takeoff and landing, the rest is on autopilot, that is no disrespect to them as they will tell you that themselves. They constantly say Flights attendants do the hard job. There are also so many of them who are servers/waitress on their days off to make extra money. They understand both jobs and how disgustingly people treat them. Just giving you all a different perspective instead of the one sided view you have. Sincerely, someone from an aviation family of both pilots and flight attendants.

  12. Tighter rest rules will mean more flight attendants needed to staff the same flights, which is good for… passengers, Gary. You’re usually a pro-passenger blogger, but you seem to have a thing about unions and/or moderate-labor government.

    Having more FAs working less stressful and exhausting schedules will be good for PaxEx. Be glad that some months from now your Woodford (or what have you) is served by a less grumpy, less harried person!

    And honestly, with fares where they are now (astronomical), and airlines back to healthy margins, who cares about the incremental cost of some extra, likely new-hire and thus not super expensive FAs? It’s not the driver in the airline cost equation.

  13. Someone asked why the longer rest means more FAs. Here’s my very rough musings on that: Current rostering at 14h on/9 off means at best, 61% FA utilization. 14h on/10 off means 58% utilization.
    You need to fill the 3% gap. So if an airline has, say 25,000 FAs, they’d probably have to hire 750 more to meet scheduling needs (or, just as likely, some of the gap will be filled by FAs who want to work more taking open time flights – up to the monthly duty max, anyway.).
    There won’t be more FAs on each plane.

  14. Wine Wine Wine from all of you. ICC truckers have to have to 8 hours of un-interrupted rest before they can get back on the road and drive a 40,000 lb tactor trailer into the back of your matchbox car. Why would you not think a FA should also get the same 8hrs. Doctors and nurses need it too. Who wants a doctor cutting off a guys middle leg by accident.

    You all make your kids go go bed and get sleep why not let others?

  15. @ Aviation Family. So . . . “Flight attendants do the hard job”? Ask your “family” pilot what they did before becoming an airline pilot vs what flight attendant did before joining airline. And if the attendant job is so stressful then why hasn’t FAA required mandatory retirement and semi annual flight physicals as they do for pilots?
    I don’t buy your argument. While I won’t go as far to embrace what some say (“with a little more training, flight attendants make good domestic help”), I will say it is you that doesn’t understand the difference in jobs. Pilots are not just flying the plane during takeoff and landing, especially if they want to pass their next PC. But I will admit that they are not on their feet slinging Cokes and Sprites for the duration of the flight.

  16. Of the hours that a Flight Attendant works how many hours do they actually work? F/C seems to stay fairly busy on some flights but coach not so much. I read an article this morning about a man in Ft. Myers, FL who lost his car and mobile home. He can only afford to replace one. He works for the sanitation department and makes less than $50K a year. Who has the hardest job? If the job is so horrible why do they stay in the profession? It’s because they make big $$$ for little effort. Prove me wrong.

  17. After reading comments I realize how easy it is for most to have an opinion (a published one at that) all from the comfort of your seats. Now retired, I was a flight attendant for 37+ years. The last 20 years, I flew international trips. During those years, I’ve had 3 major life threatening events on board my flights not to mention the many health crisis involving our passengers. So, no to the comment that most flight attendants never see emergency situations. All flight attendants one way or the other will definitely experience some type of life/death situation during their career if they last longer than 5 years flying. Many of your so called facts are incorrect by the way. Many flight attendants do perform second jobs and working in restaurants as waiters/waitresses is on of the more popular side gigs. So we are quite familiar with hard work as well. Something many of you may have never experienced in your own careers. Mandatory 10 hour rest should be for everyone who plans on living a healthy lifestyle. You are fortunate to get that designated rest time with both feet in the ground. We do it at 34,000 feet in the air, sometimes 18-20 hours in the air!! 10 hour rest is not a luxury request. It’s a quality of life request necessary to remain physically healthy hoping for good health once retirement is attainable. Please stop generalizing who we are and what we do or what we need. These comments are harmful to us as a work group.

  18. If the job is so hard and you have to work another gig to support yourself then why did you do it for 37 years? My wife was a F/A for over 29 years and never had a medical emergency or an aircraft emergency in those 29 years. I know a lot of F/A’s and none of them work a 2nd job. One parasite of a F/A works for AA and makes $100K a year and whined so much about not being able to afford this or that, that my wife gave her $15K last year as a gift. Bottom line there are a few good F/A’s and I married one and gave her the opportunity to retire early. Most are just parasites who make big money and do virtually nothing for it, and whine about how hard they work. Get over yourselves, you’re just overpaid waitresses and most aren’t good at that.

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