In order to comply with a final rulemaking from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which ensures flight attendants a 10-hour break between domestic duty days with at least 8 hours behind a hotel door, American Airlines has announced that it will implement network-wide crew scheduling changes on December 2.
The Dallas-based airline recently warned its flight attendant union that starting on Friday, December 2, all domestic flights would be built with the minimum amount of rest required by the FAA.
The Biden administration gave the 2018 law priority, and this month it was officially ratified with a final regulation. Up until now, domestic duties under 14 hours were only required to have a nine-hour rest break, which could occasionally be shortened to just eight hours.
The rest period cannot be shortened for any reason, according to the new regulations, which are modeled after a similar clause that has been in effect for pilots since 2014. The amount of time flight attendants spend in their hotel rooms cannot be reduced by inclement weather or heavy traffic on the way from the airport to the crew hotel.
However, American Airlines has declined to guarantee that its domestic scheduling system will include any kind of buffer. Until today, the airline added an additional 1:30 hours to the minimum needed stopover time, but this might be reduced by traffic and flight delays.
After implementing the FAA rulemaking, the airline is said to have informed the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) that it won’t “promise” to create the same buffer.
The buffer would undoubtedly lengthen rest intervals for flight attendants, but from the standpoint of passengers, it could reduce the likelihood of flight delays and cancellations.
American Airlines is unable to promise that domestic layovers will not be created without time buffers, but it is not to guarantee that they won’t. For instance, 3.8% of domestic layovers in December included an 11–12 hour flight attendant rest time.
The majority of airlines have been developing schedules that adhere to the FAA rulemaking’s spirit for the past few months, but starting in January 2023, we’ll start to observe whether longer flight attendant rest intervals start to affect flight operations.