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Why Haven’t Key Provisions of the FAA Reauthorization Act Been Implemented Yet?

Why Haven’t Key Provisions of the FAA Reauthorization Act Been Implemented Yet?

American Airlines Has a Critical Shortage of Flight Attendants: Invoking Special Work Rules

Just over a week ago, I wrote about how a major flight attendant union was becoming frustrated with implementation of the FAA Reauthorization Act 2018.  This might sound like an incredibly boring subject seeing that it mainly guarantees funding for the Federal Aviation Administration but the Bill also contains some really important provisions that should make flying safer (and perhaps even more enjoyable) for everyone.

Signed into law on 3rd October 2018, some of the provisions tucked within the 462-page document have made headlines because they could genuinely change the way we fly.  Here’s a sample of just some of the provisions that the FAA has to act upon:

  • A study to investigate bleed air contamination that can cause toxic fume events
  • A ban on cell phone use inflight
  • Consumer information on actual flight times (rather than what airlines advertise them as)
  • Training on human trafficking for all airline employees
  • Studying occupancy of exit rows and a full review of emergency evacuation techniques
  • A full and updated report on airline and passenger safety
  • A provision for all airports to have rooms set aside for nursing mothers

There’s a lot more from where that came from but flight attendants have consistently pointed to several critical provisions:  Bumping up minimum rest from 8 hours to 10 hours, studying cabin air quality, and reviewing seat pitch and width.  But while Congress set very clear time frames for these provisions to be acted upon, those have come and gone without any action.

Take, for example, the provision to improve the minimum rest that flight attendants enjoy between flights.  As we learn more and more about the effects of fatigue, lawmakers decided flight attendants should have the same minimum rest period as their pilot colleagues have enjoyed for years.

Upping that minimum rest period by just two hours was meant to be implemented within 30-days of the FAA Reauthorization Act being signed into law.  Six months later and we still have no update from the FAA – not even a time frame of when the provision might be implemented.

Many other provisions such as setting up a national in-flight sexual misconduct taskforce also seem to have gone forgotten.

Delta's Employees Are Getting A 3% Pay Raise - But Is It Good Enough?
Photo Credit: Delta Air Lines

Admittedly, this hasn’t been the best time for the FAA to take on so much work – the record-breaking government shutdown stopped many projects in their tracks, while the worldwide grounding of Boeing 737MAX aircraft is also consuming a lot of the FAA’s resources at the moment.

But frustration is starting to build – Flight attendants at American Airlines have now joined their colleagues at United in calling for the FAA to get a move on.

Lori Bassani, national president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) wrote a stinging letter to the FAA’s acting administrator, Dan Elwell on Thursday pressing him and his department to take action.

“With the deadline missed and the government open, I am reminding the FAA that their attention to this must be immediate.  Flight attendants are safety professionals who take care of hundreds of thousands of passengers daily,” Bassani wrote of the FAA’s failure to implement the minimum rest requirement.

Last week, another flight attendant union accused Delta Air Lines of lobbying the government to delay implementation of the rule.

“These are important health and safety issues, not just for our members, but for the flying public. It is high time for the FAA to move forward on implementing these important provisions of the bill,” Bassani said of other provisions such as studying cabin air quality and seat size.

Bassani has asked the FAA to provide an update on when some of these provisions will actually be enacted – the administration has so far failed to publicly respond.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping America, Delta or even United Airlines updating their crew rosters to comply with the law early – that’s something they’ve proved remarkably resistent to doing.

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