A friend of mine recently called me and asked that question. He had received a DOT 40.25 request from an airline doing background checks on a flight attendant applicant that had previously worked at my friends’ company as a contracted (1099) air hostess. She had mistakenly reported her position to the airline as a Flight Attendant.
This misunderstanding is not uncommon. The answer to the question lies in the title and duties of the position. One is deemed as a “safety sensitive” position and is subject to DOT/FAA drug testing regulations and the other is not (at least at the time that this was written).
So let’s start with defining the roles of Flight Attendant vs. Air Hostess. A flight attendant is a person who has completed the FAA’s flight attendant training and successfully completed a practical certification test. That person has received an FAA issued Flight Attendant Certificate similar to what pilots and maintenance technicians receive once they have completed training and the practical test for certification.
In addition to the FAA certificate, the air carrier for whom they are employed must have an FAA approved, company specific, flight attendant training program in place, and the FA applicant must have successfully completed all FAA mandated training and checking for Part 135 or Part 121 respectively, in order to be designated as “Flight Attendant”.
Many Part 135 operators, in order to save on the time, effort and cost of implementing a flight attendant training program, will place a contractor or employee on board to attend to the comfort of the passengers while leaving the safety briefing and operation of safety equipment to the pilots. Air hostess duties include cleaning, food and catering services and helping with concierge services. They are not trained to open emergency exits or perform any safety sensitive functions and so may not be designated “flight crew”. Due to this fact many times they are listed as passengers on the manifest though recent developments allow them to be identified as “crew” but not “flight crew”.
In the eyes of the FAA, a Flight Attendant is flight crew and performs safety sensitive duties and thus they are subject to 14 CFR Part 120 Drug and Alcohol Testing requirements. The Air Hostess may be certificated by the FAA but if the company has not trained them in accordance with an FAA approved training program, then they are not able to be designated by the company as flight attendant. Due to this fact they would not be considered safety sensitive employees in the eyes of the FAA and thus not subject to 14 CFR Part 120 Drug and Alcohol Testing requirements.
To better understand it, let’s drill down a little by answering the following questions:
1. Which Employers Must Have a Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Plan in Accordance with DOT Regulations (49 CFR Part 40) and FAA Regulations (14 CFR Part 120)?
2. Which duty positions must be subjected to those requirements?
3. Which types of testing are safety-sensitive duty positions subject to?
According to the FAA’s drug and alcohol testing regulation (14 CFR part 120), the following employers must have a drug testing program;
1. a part 119 certificate holder with authority to operate under parts 121 and/or 135,
2. an operator as defined in 14 CFR § 91.147, or an air traffic control facility not operated by the FAA or under contract to the U.S. Military, or
3. a contractor who chooses to implement its own testing program must ensure that any employee performing the following safety-sensitive functions directly or by contract (including subcontract at any tier) is subject to drug and alcohol testing:
– flight crewmember duties,
– flight attendant duties,
– flight instruction duties,
– aircraft dispatcher duties,
– aircraft maintenance and preventive maintenance duties,
– ground security coordinator duties,
– aviation screening duties,
– air traffic control duties
– operations control specialist duties
Individuals who work for one of the types of companies listed in 1-4 above and perform one of the types of safety-sensitive functions in the bullet list must be subject to:
– pre-employment testing,
– reasonable suspicion/cause testing,
– random testing,
– return-to-duty testing,
– follow-up testing, and
– post-accident testing.
The testing procedures are established in the Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Workplace Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs, Title 49 CFR part 40.