FAA Reverses Course on Rest Rules

In the wake of heavy criticism and a lawsuit filed by seven major airline companies, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has decided to revoke its revised pilot and flight attendant rest rules for long-range flights. Instead, the agency announced it will work with airlines to study safety measures over the coming year.

The rules at issue, otherwise known as the revised operations specifications for ultra long range flights (Generic OpSpec A332), came under fire for not being developed using traditional rule-making procedures that require public comment. These rules stipulated that pilots on flights exceeding 16 hours take a scheduled rest period of 24 hours – 18 in certain circumstances – before the flight, including a physiological night’s rest. This rest period is defined as a 10-hour period including the period from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. spent in the employee’s home time zone. Rest periods were also increased following an ultra-long flight to 48 hours, or two physiological nights’ rest, whichever period was less.

The contentious changes were publicized at the end of October 2008. The lawsuit against the FAA was filed on December 24, 2008 by seven major airlines in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The lawsuit claimed that the new requirements would saddle the airlines with substantial burdens and costs without showing how the rules would improve safety. If or until new regulations are issued, the old rest rules will remain in effect.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.