In 2011, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) passed a final rule requiring pilots to get a minimum of 10 hours of rest prior to duty, an imposition that is designed to improve airline passenger safety. The rule was created after federal investigators determined that pilot fatigue was the cause of a Colgan Air crash in upstate New York. Now we’re finding it may not be just pilots that need a watchful eye. According to a June 1, 2013 report by the Chicago Tribune, flight attendants are also showing signs of impaired judgment and decreased performance while on the job. Why then, we ask, is there not a similar sleep rule for flight attendants?
Risks to Airline Passenger Safety
In a 2010 study of flight attendant work/sleep patterns conducted by the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI), it was shown that: * Flight attendants sleep an average of 6.3 hours on days off, but only 5.7 hours on work days; and * Flight attendants working international operations slept only 4.9 hours on average, and less efficiently than colleagues in domestic operations. Clearly, the average amount of sleep that flight attendants reported is a far cry from pilots 10-hour requirements, which are set to go into effect January 2014. There is potential risk in these findings, as flight attendants are responsible for a significant portion of airline passenger safety, including emergency evacuations. Will the FAA move toward creating a rule for airline crew that goes beyond pilots? Time will tell. In the meantime, we point to the CAMI report, which states, “…fatigue is a pervasive condition across the flight attendant community.”