Airlines will have to give flight attendants at least 10 hours off between shifts, one hour more than today, according to a rule announced Tuesday by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said the extra hour of rest would help safety.
The rule takes effect in 30 days and airlines have up to 90 days to comply.
Congress directed the FAA in 2018 to increase the rest requirement for flight attendants and remove a provision that allowed crews to work with less rest in some circumstances.
“It took us too long, but we’re finally here,” Nolen said at a news conference at Reagan Washington National Airport, where he was flanked by more than a dozen flight attendants.
Current federal rules allow flight attendants to work up to 14 hours in a day and get nine hours off between shifts.
The Flight Attendants Association has fought for years for a longer break between shifts. The union thought it had prevailed four years ago, when Congress voted by wide margins to demand more furlough. Union president Sara Nelson appeared with Nolen at the news conference and accused the Trump administration of trying to end the expansion through regulatory delay.
Union officials have pointed to an increase from 2020 to 2021 in incidents involving unruly passengers as a demonstration of the need to give cabin crews more rest between shifts. Airlines have reported fewer incidents since the federal requirement to wear face masks on flights ended in April.
“This is a small handful of people who make it hell for flight attendants on the front lines,” Nelson said.
The FAA received public comments on the additional rest requirement in both 2019 and 2021, receiving more than 1,000 comments from airlines, flight attendants, and the public.
Airlines for America, a trade group representing the largest U.S. airlines, said safety is always the industry’s top priority, and “having rested and alert flight attendants who are prepared to take carrying out their responsibilities, including cabin safety and other duties, is critical to this.” goal.” The group said it supports “data-driven, scientifically validated countermeasures to prevent fatigue.”