Common Sense: California’s New Flight Attendant Rest Break Law

Common Sense: California’s New Flight Attendant Rest Break Law

50

California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a logical bill into law, which will minimize the impact of a recent controversial court ruling, with one major exception. Before we look at the new law, let’s take a look at why this was even necessary.

California’s tricky crew rest dispute

I’ve written in the past about California’s complicated crew rest dispute. In 2016, California-based Virgin America flight attendants sued the airline, arguing that California’s employment laws were being broken. Specifically, this revolved around the requirement that workers in California be free from all job duties for 10 minutes every four hours, and get a 30 minute meal break once every five hours.

The question came down to whether these laws should apply to California-based flight attendants. Airlines argued that rules around crew rest are set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), while flight attendants argued that they should be treated no differently than any other California-based employees.

In 2021, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in favor of airline employees. While airlines tried to fight this ruling in court, the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case.

While this of course sounded like a big win for flight attendants, the practical implications were a different story. Airlines generally staff flights with the minimum number of required flight attendants, so requiring crew rest breaks where employees are 100% off duty would mean that airlines would have to increase staffing levels.

The airline industry argued that these changes would have cost airlines $3.5-8.5 billion per year if implemented, and would have led to an increase in airfare. Truth be told, the practical implications would have probably been quite simple — many airlines would have simply closed their California flight attendant bases, as that’s the only way to avoid having to deal with this.

Fortunately there’s now a mostly positive update…

This lawsuit dates back to 2016, and involves Virgin America

California passes law to address crew rest ruling

As noted by @xJonNYC, in a bipartisan effort, California Senate Bill 41 has just been signed into law, and it should prevent airlines from closing crew bases in California.

https://twitter.com/xJonNYC/status/1639752791433396230

Specifically, this law states that meal and rest period requirements do not apply to flight attendants if they’re covered by a collective bargaining agreement under the Railway Labor Act, and if there’s a provision addressing rest breaks. Furthermore, new legal action over meal or rest breaks is prohibited.

In other words, unionized airlines only have to provide meal and rest breaks for flight attendants in line with what their collective bargaining agreements say. This means that it will be business as usual for most airlines.

It’s nice to see California politicians working together to come up with a common sense solution. Of course this also means that the legal action over the past seven years regarding this has accomplished almost nothing.

Here’s what California Senator David Cortese, who wrote the bill, had to say about this:

“SB 41 shows that business groups can come together with organized labor to solve thorny problems resulting in keeping good-paying jobs here in California that might otherwise leave the state. This negotiation resolves conflicts and provides flight attendants with a benefit that makes them whole and keeps airline workers and passengers safe. I applaud the commercial airlines, cabin crew labor representatives, and my colleagues for promoting compromise for the benefit of commercial aviation, its flight attendants, and the flying public.”

While this bill is no doubt a positive, that seems like a lot of puffery for a law that essentially maintains the status quo.

This is very bad news for Delta

I missed this at first, but it won’t be business as usual for every airline with this bill. This explicitly only covers airlines with collective bargaining agreements — in other words, airlines with unionized flight attendants. Keep in mind that Delta is the one major US airline without a flight attendant union, so it seems like Delta wouldn’t be covered by this.

This raises an interesting point. Is this California pushing a pro-union agenda? After all, there have been campaigns for years to get Delta flight attendants to unionize, but they haven’t been successful. Could this be what pushes Delta flight attendants over the edge, as the only logical solution?

In fairness to the government of California, I don’t think the policy of only covering airlines with collective bargaining agreements is totally unreasonable, at least in the spirit of trying to comply with the court decision. Airlines with unionized flight attendants negotiate every aspect of their contract, while Delta flight attendants simply get what management offers them, and they can unionize if they’re not happy. Is that the same thing? I don’t know…

This new bill might have major implications for Delta

Bottom line

A law has been passed in California that minimizes the impact of a recent court ruling regarding flight attendant rest breaks. That court case ruled that California-based flight attendants were entitled to the same rest breaks as all other employees based in the state.

While I can in theory appreciate the idea behind this, the practical implications would have been that many California crew bases would have been closed. To prevent this from happening, a new California law states that airlines don’t have to comply with these laws as long as they have a collective bargaining agreement that addresses rules around rest breaks. That’s great news for most airlines, but it spells trouble for Delta.

What do you make of this new California law?

Conversations (50)
The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. Eresa Tdi Guest

    SkyWest Airlines (largest most lucrative regional in the world and larger than most US mainline airline companies) also does not have a union. Together with Delta, they’re the only two who don’t. SkyWest has California flight attendant bases in Los Angeles, San Diego, Palm Springs, Fresno and San Francisco. What does this mean for them?

  2. JGil Guest

    The bill said CA BASED FA NOT GLY THRU

  3. Brian Gasser Guest

    Does the CA state law only apply to FAs while operating within the boundary of CA airspace? If a CA based flight attendant is on an LAX-JFK flight, do the rules change when the flight is over each states? This is why the FAA should be responsible for setting the rules of the system.

  4. Dave Guest

    Delta is welcome to develop a non-Californian crew base if it doesn’t want to comply with California laws.

    But of course that might mean getting rid of or limiting the number of lucrative flights based out of the state with the nation’s largest GDP.

    If Delta wants to remain non-union l, it needs to shift its crew bases to right-to-states.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      Delta has plenty of crew bases outside of California and they will staff their flights as necessary.
      Sit tight w the hand wringing for Delta. This isn’t their first rodeo.

      As for your comment below, Delta employees know full well what they have that their unionized colleagues at other airlines don’t have. Leading profit sharing that was just paid off even at reduced levels is just starters
      Delta non pilot employees have...

      Delta has plenty of crew bases outside of California and they will staff their flights as necessary.
      Sit tight w the hand wringing for Delta. This isn’t their first rodeo.

      As for your comment below, Delta employees know full well what they have that their unionized colleagues at other airlines don’t have. Leading profit sharing that was just paid off even at reduced levels is just starters
      Delta non pilot employees have voted against unions more than at any other company in the history of the US

      You don’t really think the boarding pay that unionized flight attendants ware demanding will come at no cost to other items?

    2. FlyerDon Guest

      I believe Delta’s Flight Dispatchers are also unionized. It’s always interesting that anti-union types always fail to mention the dispatcher’s union when describing the union status of Delta’s work groups. It’s also interesting that Delta’s two highest paid employee work groups are their pilots and their dispatchers. It’s probably just a coincidence.

  5. N1120A Guest

    The law isn't actually new - it is a clarification of existing law. Historically, most wage and hour laws in California are superseded by the provisions of a CBA and meal and rest breaks are not and exception. This is really just to placate the union carriers, who were getting antsy over the Virgin America ruling, despite the issue for Virgin America being that they were non union.

  6. bhcompy Member

    Just some context for people, this type of thing is pretty common among unionized employees across the nation. Labor laws frequently have provisions for bypassing certain labor requirements at a federal and state level. Another California example is for firefighters, as they typically work 24 hour shifts, which would trigger significant overtime with California's 8 hour workday law. Instead, their CBA addresses pay for their specific edge case. If there wasn't a carve out, the...

    Just some context for people, this type of thing is pretty common among unionized employees across the nation. Labor laws frequently have provisions for bypassing certain labor requirements at a federal and state level. Another California example is for firefighters, as they typically work 24 hour shifts, which would trigger significant overtime with California's 8 hour workday law. Instead, their CBA addresses pay for their specific edge case. If there wasn't a carve out, the costs for operating a fire department would jump significantly, and firefighters are typically paid very well as compensation for the compromises they make.

  7. xando Guest

    I find America's race to the bottom incredibly disturbing. It's bizarre that even other flight attendants seem to be criticizing CA's attempt to make work like better for us.

    Airlines are once again very profitable, even more than they already were before the pandemic.

    For the customer, they are trying to get away with providing the absolute bare minimum, and yet America's default position is to how to keep feeding the big, fat pig?

    1. Brian Gasser Guest

      Legacy airlines have taken on over $5B each in leverage as a result of the cost of dealing with Covid. While Delta is making single digit profit margins, United is reporting a loss for Q1 2023. This is at a time of rising labor, fuel, and interest costs. If the US enters a recession as predicted, there is a high likelihood that this cyclical industry will be operating at a loss.

  8. Tim Dunn Diamond

    first, some sources say that Delta has just changed its flight attendant rotations so that the CA law does not apply.

    second, Delta, without a union, added boarding pay to its flight attendants with no negotiation - and that benefit will cost every other of the big 4 airlines hundreds of millions of dollars per year and tens of millions for every one else.

    As much as some people haven't figured it out, Delta...

    first, some sources say that Delta has just changed its flight attendant rotations so that the CA law does not apply.

    second, Delta, without a union, added boarding pay to its flight attendants with no negotiation - and that benefit will cost every other of the big 4 airlines hundreds of millions of dollars per year and tens of millions for every one else.

    As much as some people haven't figured it out, Delta is an expert at staying one step ahead of the pro-labor crowd - and Delta employees end up better for it.

    1. Dave Guest

      I fail to see anywhere in the country the throngs of Delta employees publicly praising their lack of unionization and the benefits they receive from it. Perhaps you can point us to some examples of delta employees praising their non-union status?

    2. William Candee Guest

      You mean like when they bought Delta an AIRPLANE?

    3. Ascot21071 Guest

      When was the 767 purchased? In the 1980’s. Hardly a recent event. Furthermore, it was done through employee contributions through their paycheck, supported by DL management.

  9. Amy Parker Guest

    This isn't a good thing, it's just shirking labor standards to please corporations. Instead of backtracking on our values, we should be pushing for better requirements in other states + at the federal level. This is a horrible cave to capitalism at the expense of workers.

    1. xando New Member

      I totally agree with you!

    2. xando New Member

      You're reinforcing Amy's point you spoon!

      Airlines are MORE profitable right now than they were in 2019.

      Thanks to Republican Party position of pro-slavery fascism, most Americans have been brainwashed into assuming that policy that's good for the worker must be bad.

      For the record, pro-big corporation thinking is why seatback screens, meals, and legroom are no longer provided. You're going to pay your money to travel anyway so why should they bother investing that...

      You're reinforcing Amy's point you spoon!

      Airlines are MORE profitable right now than they were in 2019.

      Thanks to Republican Party position of pro-slavery fascism, most Americans have been brainwashed into assuming that policy that's good for the worker must be bad.

      For the record, pro-big corporation thinking is why seatback screens, meals, and legroom are no longer provided. You're going to pay your money to travel anyway so why should they bother investing that money into making Sal happy?

    3. Brian Gasser Guest

      @Xando Airlines are not more profitable than 2019. "seatback screens, meals, and legroom are no longer provided" because people do not want to pay for them. That is part of the reason Southwest and ULCC are dominating industry growth. If you want a better flight experience, fly first or business class, however be ready to pay for it.

    4. dander Guest

      Xando this is an airline forum and a conversations about alirlines, not a place for your political point of view

    5. Sel, D. Guest

      This is good for the consumer you doughnut. FAs aren’t coal miners or brick layers. Even the California FAs are against this as it would potentially eliminate their jobs.

    6. David Guest

      If it wasn't for capitalism you wouldn't have a job, food on the table, and a roof over your head.

  10. Ernest A Guest

    It would be even n nicer if California law makers focused on really important matters like encampments of drug addicts and homeless relieving themselves in the street.

    1. xando New Member

      Yeah, because red states don't have opioid drug problems

      *sarcasm*

    2. K.C. Cooper Guest

      This campaign was meant for India, but it would make sense in San Francisco
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Pj4L7C2twI

  11. TProphet Member

    So, the airlines got away with wage theft, and the government just went ahead and covered for them with no compensation due. Typical.

  12. Sel, D. Guest

    This a huge slap in the face to Delta, and solving what everyone agrees is problematic except for them. This is some pro-union BS and you should call it out Lucky. You know this and your silence is deafening.

    1. xando New Member

      I have a Union job and very proud of it.

      Why are you anti-Union? You enjoy having your employer rip you off and totally indifferent to your needs as an employee?

    2. Sel, D. Guest

      This move is the government discriminating against a company because they are not unionized. It’s interference and reprehensible.

      I’m all for unions for hard labor work. Sitting in a jump seat on your cell phone is enough of a break for an FA’s job.

      And while irrelevant, I work for an ESOP so nobody is ripping me off.

    3. xando New Member

      We're not there for your ENTERTAINMENT, bro. Once you've gotten your snack and your drink, you no longer need me to babysit you.

      Besides, the majority of passengers have their earphones in, are asleep, or want to tend to their laptops/phones/tablets as well.

      Some annoying super needy passengers need SOMETHING every 2 minutes... So yeah, we often need a real break

    4. Dave Guest

      If Delta isn’t happy with California law, they’re welcome to cease operations there.

      I doubt though that they’ll want to completely abandon some of the nation’s largest cities.

      You can’t have it both ways. Either states’ rights matter or they don’t. California is free to decide for itself what laws it wants to pass and corporations are free to serve Californians or not.

    5. Sel, D. Guest

      When they impact businesses being operated out of other states, things get a little murky. See the pork case currently in the Supreme Court. State’s shouldn’t be able to cripple or dictate how national businesses are operated. Perhaps California is too powerful.

    6. Brian Gasser Guest

      You are missing the fact that laws have to be evenly applied and not discriminatory. I am confident that Delta will challenge this in the courts and we will see what is going to happen.

  13. Eskimo Guest

    So after all the years overs this that doesn't even change the status quo, let's analyze the winners and losers.

    FA : Tied (after a big lead)
    Company : Tied
    Union : Losers
    Politicians : Winner
    Lawyers : Biggest winners
    Tax payers : Biggest losers

    1. Anon Guest

      I think the FA unions are winners. The law was drafted to reward airlines with unionized FAs (i.e., everyone but Delta).

  14. Mon Guest

    Given that 90% of the time domestic FAs just sit and chat or use their phones maybe customer should sue to say that FAs can ONLY take those 10 and 30 minutes breaks to chat / use phone / read etc while “working”.

    1. Flyer1 Guest

      @Mon..it amazes me how so many commenters on these articles always complain about F/As being on their phones. This clearly shows me that most people don’t fly very often. I carry not only my phone, but another phone issued by my company that has my ENTIRE work life on it from email, required FAA manual, bidding life, you name it. As an international F/A, so many times I sit on my J/S after service on...

      @Mon..it amazes me how so many commenters on these articles always complain about F/As being on their phones. This clearly shows me that most people don’t fly very often. I carry not only my phone, but another phone issued by my company that has my ENTIRE work life on it from email, required FAA manual, bidding life, you name it. As an international F/A, so many times I sit on my J/S after service on my long overseas flight and fill out reports for catering, work issues, broken items, etc. Why should I wait until I land to do all this when I’m not getting paid except when I’m in the air? My company says it’s acceptable to do it during this time and so many people are commenting that we’re on our phones. People just need to get more educated on the these issues before they speak. Oh and about speaking...we’re allowed to speak to each other, eat, drink non alcoholic beverages on the plane and actually get you use the bathroom too. That must upset a few people.

    2. digital_notmad Diamond

      It doesn't seem to me that anyone is complaining about the phones themselves. The complaint is phones at the expense of proactive in-flight service. If you're not neglecting in-flight service for your phone, I don't think these complaints are directed at you.

    3. xando New Member

      We're not your f'n babysitters, clowns, or servants. If you want to crack your unfunny jokes at us to make us fake laugh, do it! We're not there for your entertainment. Most passengers just want to go back to sleep, put their earphones in, play on their laptops or phones anyway

    4. Fred Guest

      Of course you're our servants. That's literally your job - to provide service. Tell me you're a shitty FA without telling me....

    5. AM Guest

      Wrong. Our job is to ensure the safety of everyone aboard the airplane. Our 6 week training has nothing to do with service. It is to get you out of the aircraft during an emergency, it is to provide medical attention from anything from heart attacks to child labor to air sickness. My first flight as a Delta F/A is where I learned service. Service will always take a back seat to the main function...

      Wrong. Our job is to ensure the safety of everyone aboard the airplane. Our 6 week training has nothing to do with service. It is to get you out of the aircraft during an emergency, it is to provide medical attention from anything from heart attacks to child labor to air sickness. My first flight as a Delta F/A is where I learned service. Service will always take a back seat to the main function of our job - to provide safety. The above comment is correct in that we are not paid to be on the ground. We are only paid one that plane is in the air. After service we have to take inventory of everything that is needed for the next flight so that when we land at our destination the aircraft is restocked for the next flight. We have to make reports of unruly passengers. We have to make reports of every little incident that occurs aboard the flight, no matter how minor. Our ground time is our unpaid time so we have to do things while on the clock.

  15. Never In Doubt Guest

    Something useful was done in Sacramento?

    Never thought I’d see the day.

  16. 9volt Gold

    I'm not sure why this even needs to be codified. There are many occupations where they are "always on" but they somehow make it work for their breaks. Think cops, firemen, EMS workers, etc.

    They find time to eat, take a break, etc during their downtime, but if an emergency occurs, they interrupt their break and handle the emergency. The same precedent can be followed for FAs.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      When people working on the ground take breaks, there are other people working on the ground to fill in.

      Where would the other people in the metal tube at 35,000 feet have come from?

    2. 9volt Gold

      Easy. They stagger their breaks. They don't all have to break at the exact same time. One FA breaks, then the other 3 can still handle passengers requests, collecting trash, etc. Then they rotate. And if an emergency occurs, then they interrupt their break and it's all hands on deck.

    3. Tom Guest

      The problem with this is that the FAA has mandatory staffing minimums. So they would have to carry an extra flight attendant on the trips to cover this. It is a huge cost and a waste of manpower.

      Essentially, we are watching bureaucracies battling out primacy and creating bad legislation.

    4. xando New Member

      A new FA wouldn't be necessary.

      When we work widebody flights, say, to Europe, half of the crew DOES take a rest while the other half continues working... Then, the crews switch.

      We understand that in an emergency ALL flight attendants need to attend to it even if that means interrupting our break

    5. xando New Member

      Correct. That's how it's done when we work widebody flights overseas

    6. Mike Guest

      However, the difference between international and domestic- the majority of airlines ONLY staff FAA mandated minimum crew, so even rotating breaks goes 1 FA below the FAA minimum therefore the airline would be REQUIRED to over staff every flight by 1 - so when someone goes on break there is still a fully FAA minimum staff on duty.

  17. Tom Guest

    Delta Flight Attendants are not under a collective bargaining agreement.

    This is going to get interesting.

    1. breathesrain Gold

      Yeah isn't that the real news here? Delta will potentially be the only mainline airline who has to abide by the break laws unless they ditch CA-based employees?

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Flyer1 Guest

@Mon..it amazes me how so many commenters on these articles always complain about F/As being on their phones. This clearly shows me that most people don’t fly very often. I carry not only my phone, but another phone issued by my company that has my ENTIRE work life on it from email, required FAA manual, bidding life, you name it. As an international F/A, so many times I sit on my J/S after service on my long overseas flight and fill out reports for catering, work issues, broken items, etc. Why should I wait until I land to do all this when I’m not getting paid except when I’m in the air? My company says it’s acceptable to do it during this time and so many people are commenting that we’re on our phones. People just need to get more educated on the these issues before they speak. Oh and about speaking...we’re allowed to speak to each other, eat, drink non alcoholic beverages on the plane and actually get you use the bathroom too. That must upset a few people.

3
Brian Gasser Guest

Does the CA state law only apply to FAs while operating within the boundary of CA airspace? If a CA based flight attendant is on an LAX-JFK flight, do the rules change when the flight is over each states? This is why the FAA should be responsible for setting the rules of the system.

2
Brian Gasser Guest

Legacy airlines have taken on over $5B each in leverage as a result of the cost of dealing with Covid. While Delta is making single digit profit margins, United is reporting a loss for Q1 2023. This is at a time of rising labor, fuel, and interest costs. If the US enters a recession as predicted, there is a high likelihood that this cyclical industry will be operating at a loss.

2
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
5,163,247 Miles Traveled

32,614,600 Words Written

35,045 Posts Published