The Federal Aviation Administration is moving forward with a rule mandating that airline flight attendants be given at least an extra hour of rest following duty periods.

On 2 November, the agency released a proposed rule that, if adopted, would set the minimum rest period at 10h for flight attendants working duty periods up to 14h.

That marks a change from current FAA regulations, which require attendants working such duty periods receive either 9h of rest, or a reduced-rest of 8h if they later receive 10h.

The proposed changes does not include any reduced-rest option.

Delta 737-900 Max KJ FG

Source: Max Kingsley-Jones/FlightGlobal

The FAA is changing the rules in response to a requirement in the agency’s 2018 funding bill. In regulatory documents, the FAA estimates the change could cost each of the four largest US airlines about $23 million annually, with total industry costs of between about $67 million and $118 million annually.

The move has strong support from unions. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and other labour groups cite the important safety roles performed by flight attendants and say some airlines already grant attendants 10h of rest, “without incurring additional costs”.

Airlines for America (A4A), the lobby group representing most major US airlines, pegs the cost of the proposal at $1 billion over ten years for all US carriers, according to regulatory documents.

The group also warned that requiring 10h of rest would “reduce schedule flexibility, result in a potential loss of income for flight attendants and increase cost to certificate holders due to new hire turnover costs, training costs, scheduling software costs and travel costs,” the FAA’s proposal notes.

Endeavor Air, a major regional carrier owned by Delta Air Lines, told the FAA the change would cost it $205,000 initially and another $203,800 annually for several years, documents show.

The FAA is accepting comments about its proposed rule through 3 January 2022. The change would not modify a separate FAA rule applying to flight attendants assigned to duty periods exceeding 14h. In those cases, attendants must receive at least 12h of rest, which can be reduced to 10h.