New Science-Based Pilot Rest and Duty Regulations to Impact Flight Attendants
Exactly how Flight Attendants will be affected by changing Pilot rest and duty time regulations is not yet clear, but AFA is staying ahead of the curve, preparing for potential impact on Flight Attendant negotiations and on our health and safety. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has mandated changes to pilot duty time and rest regulations, in place since the mid-1960s, that must be implemented at all U.S. carriers by January 2014. Flight Attendant duty time and rest regulations were established in the mid-1990s.
These pilot Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) signal a significant paradigm shift away from existing pilot duty and rest requirements, which vary for domestic, international and unscheduled flights, for different types of passenger flights, and do not take factors such as start time and time zone crossings into account.
In 1992, the FAA began considering changes to the regulations to enhance safety but its efforts were stymied by airline lobbyists who cited a lack of safety data. Then, in February 2009, the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407, which killed all 49 people on board and one on the ground, was attributed in part to pilot fatigue and training. The families of the Colgan victims advocated relentlessly and concerns among U.S. regulators were renewed. This, in addition to pressure from Congress and from international aviation regulators who sought science-based flight, duty and rest standards, prompted the FAA administrator to address pilot fatigue in June 2009. The FAA created a “Call to Action” agenda which called for FARs to address pilot flight and duty time limitations and fatigue management, including commuting.
An FAA working group comprised of fatigue experts, airline representatives and pilot union leaders published a proposed pilot rule in September 2010, and a final rule was published on December 21, 2011 with a two-year implementation period. The new pilot FARs incorporate the latest fatigue science to set different requirements for pilot flight time, duty period and rest based on:
• time of day pilots begin their first flight,
• number of scheduled flight segments; and
• number of time zones crossed.
The regulation also allows an airline to develop an alternative approach for mitigating pilot fatigue, as long as it is based on scientific data that is validated and continuously monitored by the FAA. This means that pilots could negotiate with management to develop alternate duty and rest schemes that are based on data and subject to FAA approval.
In US Airways Flight Attendant negotiations last year, AFA anticipated that contractual “me too” clauses with the Pilots under the new FARs could directly affect Flight Attendants. AFA came up with a timely solution and was able to write in contractual provisions specific to Flight Attendants. At Horizon Air, the FAA certifies Flight Attendants under the Pilot regulations, and AFA is part of a joint labor-management effort to interpret and implement the new regulation.
AFA is examining how these changes will affect our Flight Attendant provisions in each of our contracts and, going forward, we will strive to include aspects of the proposed regulations that best address our needs and expand upon them. We will make the most of any additional changes in the future that may be implemented at the regulatory level.
AFA supports science-based regulation of rest and duty time for Flight Attendants — regulation that meets the needs of our airlines, taking into account our unique duties as first responders. AFA intends to participate fully in any future discussions addressing Flight Attendant-specific rest requirements.