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White House Backs California’s Airline Crew Break Rules

The Biden administration is asking the Supreme Court of the United States to either overturn or send back an appeal of a California law which applies the state’s employee rest and meal break rules to airline employees.
The White House wants the Supreme Court of the United States to allow California to apply their rules for employee rest and meal breaks to airline employees, breaking from a stance by the former administration.


The Associated Press reports a filing by the U.S. solicitor general is asking the court to either uphold an appellate decision applying the rule to air carriers or return it to the lower court for further deliberation.


California Rules Allows for Multiple Breaks Throughout Workday

The lawsuit before the Supreme Court was originally filed by Virgin America, now owned by Alaska Airlines. In the original filing, the airline was challenged by a group of flight attendants over California’s labor law, which gives employees one 10-minute break every four hours, at least a 30-minute meal break after five hours, and another meal break after working 10 hours.


Virgin America claimed the law could not apply to California-based flight crews, because rules set by the Federal Aviation Administration allows attendants to work 14-hour workdays. This includes a meal break where workers stay on duty, so that companies don’t have to add employees to flights to cover the one off-duty.


The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that California’s law did apply to California-based flight crews, and airlines would have to honor the law. In appealing to the highest court in the land, the former Virgin America and trade group Airlines for America say that the California law would harm consumers by creating a variety of labor issues from state to state, ultimately forcing airlines to raise airfares and cut schedules.


Attorneys for the flight attendants who originally sued Virgin America say that while the FAA has control over pricing, routes and services, the agency does not regulate labor issues set by states. The U.S. solicitor general agreed, noting in their filing that California’s law is not pre-empted by the FAA in any way.


The Supreme Court has not yet decided on the case.


Alaska Airlines Tied in Multiple Labor-Related Court Cases

The challenge before the Supreme Court is one of several labor issues the Seattle-based airline is currently involved in. Earlier in May 2022, two former airline flight attendants sued Alaska Airlines, claiming they were “cancelled” by the carrier for their religious beliefs.

waitress May 27, 2022

Flight attendant hours on duty are totally different and unique than someone working 8-5 on the ground.  You are informed of what your job entails when interviewing and in training.  If you have 2 or 3 legs a day how do you determine where a 30 minute or 10 minute break should be.   If you want scheduled breaks apply at a restaurant on the ground where it is doable.  The perks we have as flight attendants far outweigh the need for "scheduled breaks"

unfrequentflyer May 27, 2022

Why did they use a picture of CX?

Tanya934 May 26, 2022

If you are on a break you are, effectively, off duty, and should not be disturbed unless you choose to be. Either supply a crew rest area of ask crew members to take a break in a screened off area. In a healthcare setting, we have to take breaks away from the public otherwise we would be called on constantly.

xlnja May 26, 2022

The existing national rules should stay in place.  The complexity of each state imposing their own break rules is impractical.  Besides, I'd say there's quite a lot of downtime in the galley to make up for any perceived loss of "break time".

toxman May 26, 2022

"Airlines for America say that the California law would harm consumers by creating a variety of labor issues from state to state, ultimately forcing airlines to raise airfares and cut schedules" Wow what a lame argument. Let's remove all breaks from all employees nationwide in the interest of lowering prices.