The Biden administration has taken a stand against the airline industry, asking the US Supreme Court on Wednesday to uphold a California law that would allow more rest and meal breaks than flight crews are guaranteed under federal regulations.
The US Attorney General and other administration officials said in a filing that California law is not anticipated by the Federal Aviation Administration’s agency to regulate air safety.
A federal appeals court ruled in 2021 that California was entitled to apply an employee rest and meal break law to the airline industry. The original defendant, Virgin America, was later purchased by Alaska Airlines, which asked the Supreme Court to overturn the decision.
The administration asked the court to dismiss the airline’s appeal to hear the case or remit the matter back to lower courts for further consideration. The Trump administration sided with the airlines when the case came before the appeals court.
The airline industry, represented by the Airlines for America trade group, has campaigned to have the Court of Appeal’s judgment overturned. Airlines are concerned about a patchwork of different state regulations, and the trade group says the California law would prompt airlines to reduce flights and raise fares.
The trade group said Wednesday, “The conflict between federal and state law is a critical issue with statewide ramifications,” and it hopes the Supreme Court will overturn the lower court’s decision.
According to the ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, airlines would have to give California-based flight crews 10 minutes off all work duties every four hours — including in-flight vacations — and a 30-minute meal break every five hours, and another meal break after 10 Hours.
FAA rules set a maximum 14-hour workday for flight attendants during which they can take lunch breaks but must remain on duty. That saves airlines the cost of adding flight attendants to cover those who are off-duty.
Attorneys for flight attendants who have sued Virgin America say a 1978 federal law deregulating the airline industry gave the FAA sole authority over fares, routes and services, but not over other matters.
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/05/25/administration-opposes-airlines-in-lawsuit-over-crew-breaks/ Administration opposes airlines in crew disruption lawsuit