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FAA Reauthorization Bill Provides Aircraft Air Quality Study, Certification for Flight Attendants

Date: November 24, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC –The FAA Reauthorization Bill passed by the Senate on Friday contained a historic provision to certify flight attendants in their safety role onboard the aircraft, and created a study of aircraft air quality problems. However, a provision added in the conference report stripped the Transportation Security Administration’s directive to create a basic, mandatory flight attendant security training program for airlines to follow.

“This is a bittersweet victory for flight attendants. Certification of flight attendants, who are solely responsible for safety in the aircraft cabin, is long overdue,” said AFA International President Patricia Friend. “Until this legislation passed, flight attendants were the only safety-sensitive aviation employees that did not have the FAA certify the successful completion of their required safety training.”

Under the law, all current flight attendants will be certified upon passage of the legislation. The FAA has up to one year to provide flight attendants with proof of their certification and up to 120 days to provide certification to new flight attendants after they have successfully passed their required FAA training.

The FAA Reauthorization also directed the FAA to study the effects of poor air quality on board aircraft. The law calls for the agency to monitor air quality problems on board the aircraft, including the monitoring of ozone on a select number of flights, analyze samples of residue from aircraft ventilation ducts and filters after an air quality incident, analyze and study cabin pressurization and establish an air quality incident reporting system.

While certification and the air quality study are significant victories for flight attendants, the legislation also set a dangerous course by stripping language that would have required the Transportation Security Administration to establish industry wide standards for the basic, mandatory flight attendant security training.

Currently, domestic airlines only need to provide two hours of security training to qualify as “TSA approved” and international carriers only need to provide four hours. These already dangerously low standards are in danger of being eroded further without a standardized program. Under airline pressure, the TSA has already granted waivers to further reduce the minimum two to four hours of training provided, and some carriers have asked for security training components to be moved into home study packets. Carriers are not required and often do not offer any hands on training to their flight attendants.

“While flight attendant safety and health certainly made some significant gains in this legislation, flight attendant security training fell victim to the partisan politics and anti-worker bias shown by the Republican Leadership in Congress,” said Friend. “The airlines who curry favor with this Administration and Congress have once again succeeded in allowing the airline’s bottom-line mentality to make decisions on aircraft security.”

More than 36,000 flight attendants at 26 airlines join together to form AFA, the world’s largest flight attendant union. Visit us @

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