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Wednesday, June 28, 2017
FAA Reauthorization Bill
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants congratulates AFA-CWA who has worked hard to improve the rest regulations for the regional carriers and we certainly support our brothers and sisters at the regionals in their efforts to get more rest. We supported this proposal two years ago, when it first came to light, but pointed out then that our professional analysis indicated it would have little, if any, effect on the lives of our hard working mainline Flight Attendants. Our professional’s analysis remains the same today.
In our opinion, the reality is that the ‘Fight for 10 ‘, though we support it, does not go far enough. We continue to believe that Flight Attendants should be treated with the same respect and consideration as the Pilots, not as second class safety and security team members. Any new fatigue language should be science-based with Congress directing the FAA to issue regulations based on the best scientific information available, just as it did for pilots.
APFA has referred to Flight Attendants as first responders for many years and we are pleased to see that reference is taking hold throughout the industry. We have been saving lives and providing safe and secure travel for our customers since the inception of the Flight Attendant profession. Our passengers and fellow crew members on the flight deck also recognize this. Increasing minimum rest by 45 minutes is hardly a solution. We can do better and we should demand better. Real change means supporting a science-based solution to fatigue for Flight Attendants at all carriers.
Additionally, APFA supports numerous amendments added to the FAA Reauthorization Bill this week. Here are some of the amendments that APFA supports that, should they become law, would improve working conditions for Flight Attendants.
Human Trafficking – APFA supports the amendment brought forth by Congressman Brownley (CA) which would require air carriers to provide training to help aviation workers recognize and respond to potential human trafficking victims. Former APFA member Nancy Rivard and her Airline Ambassadors organization has been at the forefront of the human trafficking issue and has conducted training all over the world. Human trafficking is the second largest crime in the world and affects millions of people including many children in the US and around the world. APFA has supported Nancy’s efforts from the earliest stages, and her hard work saving lives is paying off.
Flags of Convenience – APFA has long been opposed to allowing “flag of convenience” models, such as NAI, to fly into the US. Flag of convenience models skirt tax, labor and safety laws and threaten US aviation jobs. The bill was initially introduced as bill H.R. 2150 by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Pete DeFazio (OR), Aviation Subcommittee Chairman LoBiondo (NJ), Aviation Subcommittee Ranking Member Rick Larsen (WA), and Representative Drew Ferguson (GA). The bill has now been added as an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Bill. APFA most recently participated and spoke out against flags of convenience at the H.R. 2150 rally on June 14th.
Cabin Seat Size APFA thanks Congressman Cohen (TN) for introducing the SEAT Act as an amendment that would instruct the FAA to issue regulations governing seat pitch, width and length. APFA believes that the steady rise in air rage can, in part, be attributed to the steady decrease, particularly of seat pitch and width. However, we are also concerned that there has been inadequate study on the effect of seat pitch and the safe evacuation of aircraft within 90 seconds. It is clear that without regulatory guidance, passengers will face increasing challenges not only in terms of comfort but, more importantly, safety.
Staffing Minimums APFA supports the amendment introduced by Congressman Cohen (TN) that calls for the review of Flight Attendant staffing minimums. On 9/11, the role of Flight Attendants changed forever. Flight Attendants are now widely acknowledged as safety professionals and first responders who the flying public can rely on to keep them safe. A review of Flight Attendant staffing minimums is several decades overdue given the new first responder responsibilities that Flight Attendants have taken on. When an emergency occurs, Flight Attendants must not only be rested and ready to save lives, they must also divide their responsibilities between passengers and protecting the Flight Deck and aircraft. We must ensure that our aircraft are properly staffed. There is nothing technical about the current FAA requirement for a Flight Attendant-to-seat ratio of 50:1. In fact, the ratio for Canadian carriers is 40:1. It only makes sense that the appropriate staffing levels are reviewed as part of any new safety and fatigue program. While the amendment has been withdrawn for now, APFA will continue to advocate for a staffing requirement review on the Senate side and in the future when the House considers FAA Reauthorization.
Cabin Air Quality – APFA applauds Senator Blumenthal (CT) who we have been working with for introducing an amendment that would improve the detection and documentation of toxic fume events in the cabin. Along with the support of Senator Markey (MA) who was instrumental in our campaign against No Knives on Planes, this amendment calls for the addition of fume sensors aboard aircraft, proper training for flight crew and improved reporting criteria. As Flight Attendants, we should not be questioning the air we breathe in our workplace.
One issue in particular that has dominated the FAA Reauthorization Bill is the privatization of the U.S. Air Traffic Control system. APFA remains deeply concerned about a privatization mandate. In short, Chairman Schuster alleges that privatization will speed up the modernization of the ATC system, while opponents to privatization are concerned over who will govern the new entity. Safety oversight is a concern as well. It is unlikely at this point that the House Bill will become law as the Senate opposes the privatization component. This means we could see a short-term FAA extension bill in September and will most likely be debating many of the same issues in the following months.
APFA National Interim Government Affairs Representative