Panel approves more rest time for flight attendants

Flight attendants
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The House Transportation Committee approved Thursday an amendment to increase the month of rest time that is given to flight attendants between work shifts. 

The measure, which was attached to a Federal Aviation Administration funding bill, calls for the minimum amount of rest time between flights that is given to flight attendants to be increased from eight to 10 hours. 

The amendment, filed by Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), was approved on a voice vote on Thursday. 

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Supporters of the proposal said the measure would ensure airline crew members who are charged with ensuring the safety of passengers will be properly rested. 

"Proper rest is critical for Flight Attendants to do our work as aviation’s first responders. We worked very hard to achieve this common sense regulation and we will continue to push until the minimum 10 hour rest becomes law," Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, said in a statement.

"Science confirms Flight Attendant fatigue is real and we must all commit to combat fatigue for the continued safest transportation system in the world," she continued. "AFA commends members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for working with us on proper rest and all of our safety initiatives for this bill." 

Current rules require U.S. flight attendants to be given a minimum of eight hours off between trips. 

Flight attendant advocacy groups have said the current rest rules include time when airplanes are being offloaded, as well as travel time between airports and hotels, however.  

"Passenger deplaning, preflight preparation and passenger boarding is included within the rest period which means that the opportunity to actually sleep is closer to 4 or 5 hours before potentially working another 14 hour duty day," the flight attendants' union said Thursday. 

"Flight Attendants' rest should equal pilot rest in order to do our work as aviation's first responders," the union added in a post on its website. "Flight Attendants are entrusted with the safety, health, and security of our passengers on a daily basis." 

Lawmakers in the House are holding a hearing on the proposed FAA funding measure on Thursday. The agency's funding is currently set to expire on March 31.

The FAA bill is one of the few must-pass pieces of legislation left on the congressional agenda this year. As such, it also represents an opportunity for lawmakers looking for a vehicle on which to attach pet issues.

Most of the debate about the aviation funding bill thus far has been focused on a controversial plan from House Republicans to separate air traffic control from the FAA

The text of the amendment to require airlines to try to seat families together can be read here