Flight attendants are celebrating new FAA duty rules which now require more statutory minimum rest between duty periods. While flight attendants should certainly celebrate this victory, Sara Nelson’s choice of words yet again strikes me as unnecessarily partisan.
Nelson Misses The Forest In The Trees With Paristan Victory Lap Over FAA Minimum Flight Attendant Rest Rules
Earlier this week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented a new rule requiring flight attendants to receive a minimum of 10 hours of rest (from nine) between duty periods. This applies to duty periods of up to 14 hours (if a flight attendant works more than 14 hours, more time off must already be given and that rule does not change).
Or course “world’s most powerful flight attendant” Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, went on a victory lap:
“President Biden delivered today. Five years ago after decades of action by AFA members, science to back up our alarm on Flight Attendant fatigue, and relentless efforts with lawmakers, we achieved an overwhelming bipartisan vote to equalize minimum rest with commercial airline pilots. The law could not have been more clear, but instead of taking definitive direction from Congress, the Trump administration put our rest on a regulatory road to kill it. President Biden promised to make this a top priority to correct this and today under the leadership of Secretary Buttigieg and Acting FAA Administrator Nolen the rule for 10 hours irreducible rest for Flight Attendants is final…”
“We have been successful in setting these rest standards in several contracts, but this raises the minimum standard for all Flight Attendants and airlines will have to meet that standard in 90 days. It’s about time! As aviation’s first responders and last line of defense, it is critical that we are well rested and ready to perform our duties. COVID has only exacerbated the safety gap with long duty days, short nights, and combative conditions on planes.”
Nelson is an extreme partisan, never letting an opportunity go to attack those she is not in ideological alignment with. Do you notice that instead of just thanking the current administration, she attacks the former one?
We can look at this in two ways, both in the truth of her statements and her role as AFA-CWA president. In terms of making a general truth claim, such criticism against the prior administration seems valid. Trump-era Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao did little to implement what Congress passed on a bipartisan basis in 2018 (asking the FAA to impose stricter rules concerning minimum rest periods on U.S. airlines).
But Trump and Chao helped to save tens of thousands of flight attendant jobs by embracing the Payroll Protection Plan and essentially kowtowed to airline efforts to fleece taxpayers during the pandemic, precisely what Nelson advocated for.
Considering most flight attendants already enjoy at least 10 hours of rest, her attack on the previous administration strikes me as missing the forest in the trees. I hold the Trump Administration in high contempt for its poorly-thought-out pandemic-era subsidies doled out to airlines. But Nelson should be singing their praises because it isn’t clear if she would have received the same sweet deal under an Obama or Biden administration (like Lufthansa).
In any case, her carefully-calculated speech constantly denigrating those with whom she disagrees strikes me as inherently problematic for a figure who is supposed to represent the voices of all flight attendants.
Tell me what you’re for, not what you’re against. Don’t rub victory in on the losers…it just makes you appear petty. Of course, Nelson hopes her language will influence close races in November, but her perspective on politics does not advance the country toward an ability to seek common ground.
This is a small issue, but aviation-related and indicative of a wider problem in America. Even as each of us brings our worldview to the table in dialogue, I am making a greater effort to tell people what I am for, not what I am against, especially when the matter is already settled.
As for the new rule, I do not believe we will see much change (perhaps a bit at the regional level) as major carriers already generally give flight attendants this minimum rest (or more). 10 hours seems quite reasonable to me, though, considering that is not sleeping time, but the total time between flights.