As airlines restructure and cut
corners to make ends meet, flight attendants are experiencing a new industry
trend that must be put to rest. At many AFA carriers, flight attendants are being
forced to work to the point of exhaustion because of poorly scheduled duty
time, lengthened duty days due to concessionary bargaining, or flagrant company
violations of flight attendants’ schedules.
The fatigue that more and more AFA
members are experiencing on the job can affect our emergency and evacuation
duties. In an era of heightened security with the need for constant vigilance,
we cannot afford to be exhausted on the job.
In 1996, the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) acknowledged that flight attendant
fatigue could impact our job performance and implemented the Flight Attendant
Duty and Rest requirements. Current FAA flight attendant rest rules require a
minimum of 9 hours, which can be reduced to 8 hours if the following rest
period is 10 hours. If, the “rest period” includes exiting the airport, local
transportation to a rest facility (hotel), a meal, preparation for bed at night
and then transportation back to the airport for the next duty day, perhaps the
minimum rest period requirements need to be revisited.
FAA Issues Pilot Duty and Rest
Regulations – December 2011
On Wednesday, December 21, 2011, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
announced the long-awaited Pilot Duty and Rest Requirements that changes the
way commercial passenger airline pilots are scheduled to address pilot fatigue.
One of the key components in the rule includes an increased rest period of a
minimum of 10 hours that may not be reduced. The Pilot Fatigue Rule will
take effect in two years to allow passenger airline operators time to
transition. Read highlights
from these new regulations on the FAA website.
AFA believes that now that the pilot rule is done, it is imperative that the
FAA initiate rulemaking to address Flight Attendant fatigue. As the FAA states
in the pilot final rule, its incremental approach contemplates “future
rulemaking initiatives [that] may address fatigue concerns related to flight
attendants, maintenance personnel, and dispatchers.” As noted below in the FAA
Flight Attendant Fatigue Studies section, there is a sound, scientific basis
for demanding similar increased protections from fatigue for flight attendants.
AFA will continue to strive for contract provisions that protect Flight
Attendants from fatigue and to defend the right of Flight Attendants to call in
fatigued without discipline.
FAA Flight Attendant Fatigue
Studies (updated Sept 2012)
The FY ’05 Omnibus Appropriations contained an appropriation for $200,000 directing
the FAA to conduct a study of flight attendant fatigue. Due to short internal
FAA deadlines for conducting the report, the researchers were unable to conduct
a thorough and comprehensive study of flight attendant fatigue. The 2005 report
primarily consisted of a review of existing literature on the issue, an
evaluation of flight attendant duty schedules and a comparison of those
schedules to the current regulations regarding rest. Based just on that limited
research, the report concluded that flight attendants are “experiencing fatigue
and tiredness and as such, [it] is a salient issue warranting further
evaluation.” They also stated that “not all the information needed could be acquired
to gain a complete understanding of the phenomenon/problem of flight attendant
fatigue” and therefore recommended follow-on research.
Follow-on research began in 2007 and resulted in six additional
reports. A description of the six studies and an overview on each study
I: National Duty, Rest, and Fatigue Survey. This survey report
addressed 7 main operational factors that may contribute to flight attendant
fatigue: work background, workload and duty time, sleep, health, fatigue, work
environment, and general demographics.
was collected from 9,180 flight attendants representing 30 operators.
indicated that flight attendants had experienced fatigue (84%) and the majority
felt flight attendant fatigue was a safety risk.
of the primary contributors to fatigue were scheduling and physiological
II: Flight Attendant Work/Rest Patterns, Alertness, and Performance Assessment.
This study explored explore the physiological and psychological effects of
fatigue, sleepiness, circadian factors and rest schedules on flight attendants’
ability to perform their duties over 3-4 week period of 202 flight
average, flight attendants slept 6.3 hours on days off and 5.7 hours on work
days. Those working international operations slept less and less efficiently
compared to domestic flight attendants. All flight attendants exhibited
significant impairments during pre-work testing.
study supports the subjective data from Part I that noted that flight
attendants felt that fatigue was a common problem and that it is a pervasive
condition across the flight attendant community. In fact, it appears that
chronic sleep restrictions and fatigue are considerably worse than the flight
attendant perceptions noted in Part I.
III, Validation of Fatigue
Models. This will help ensure that model predictions are
consistent with data gathered from flight attendants during the field
operations be scheduled.
o A total of 202
flight attendants participated in a study to evaluate the predictive validity
of the SAFTE (Sleep, Activity, Fatigue, and Task Effectiveness) model. The study
used actual sleep/wake/work data to demonstrate clear relationships between
performance effectiveness predicted by the SAFTE model and objective
performance outcomes in the field.This Part has yet to be published.
IV: Analysis of Incident Reports. The FAA CAMI reviewed
and analyzed the content from 2,628 reports found in the NASA ASRS database
related to flight attendant fatigue in order to identify the frequency and
conditions of fatigue noted in the reports.
narratives in the reports mirror the findings in the other parts of this study
in that flight attendant fatigue is a salient issue and there should be
scheduling based on science and that in addition some type of training should
be supplied to the flight attendants.
V: A Comparative Study of International Flight Attendant Fatigue Regulations
and Collective Bargaining Agreements. CAMI personnel
obtained and analyzed 38 regulations and 13 collective bargaining agreements
from around the world.
comparing U.S. maximum hours of work and minimum hours of rest with other countries
the U.S. prescriptive rules were the least restrictive.
study recommends establishing a flight attendant fatigue work group of subject
matter experts to evaluate the current regulations, 14 CFR 121.467 and 135.273,
for possible revision.
VI: Fatigue Countermeasure Training and Potential Benefits.
Education about the dangers of fatigue, causes of sleepiness, importance of
sleep and proper sleep hygiene is a tool that can assist with mitigating
fatigue if used with other risk mitigation tools like scheduling.
personnel reviewed 50 training programs from diverse workgroups and identified
the critical components of a fatigue countermeasures training program and the
study recommended that airlines implement a training using some of the
suggested components as well as integrating the training into a broader program
that addresses fatigue risk management strategies.
survey noted that 35% of flight attendants surveyed were provided some type of
training or material on fatigue; however, almost 80% indicated the training did
not help reduce or minimize fatigue.
Attendant Fatigue: A Quantitative Review of Flight Attendant Comments.
This analysis study was conducted to provide a quantitative review of
some of the comments and surveys results in the Congressional studies
above. It can be used as a supplement to help interpret the published
This analysis corroborates and emphasizes that the results of the
national survey of flight attendant fatigue found that long duty hours,
consecutive duty days, length of layovers, long delays, breaks and nutrition
were concerns for flight attendants.
Overall, the results from the survey and the content analysis of
reported comments indicate that fatigue is an issue of significant concern in
flight attendant operations.
Activity and Hot Topics
"Fatigue: The Flight Attendant Perspective"
given by Candace Kolander, AFA-CWA Air Safety, Health and Security Coordinator
at the 26th Annual International Aircraft Cabin Safety Symposium, February
Testimony of Pat Friend, AFA-CWA
International President, to the Subcommittee on Aviation of the House
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, June 6, 2007
NTSB Safety Recommendation A-99-45:
Three safety recommendations regarding fatigue in aviation, issued in 1999