Administration opposes airlines in crew breakdown lawsuit

The Biden administration has hit out at the airline industry and on Wednesday urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a California law that would provide more rest and meal breaks than airline crews are guaranteed by federal rules.

The US solicitor general and other administration officials said in a filing that California law is not preempted by the authority of the Federal Aviation Administration to regulate aviation safety.

A federal appeals court ruled in 2021 that California was within its rights to apply an employee rest and meal break law to the airline industry. The original defendant, Virgin America, was later bought by Alaska Airlines, which asked the Supreme Court to overturn the decision.

The administration asked the court to either dismiss the airline’s appeal to hear the case or send the matter back to the lower courts for further consideration. The Trump administration had sided with the airlines when the case went to the appeals court.

The airline industry, represented by the Airlines for America trade group, lobbied to overturn the appeals court ruling. Airlines are worried about a patchwork of different state rules, and the trade group says California law would force airlines to cut flights and raise fares.

The trade group said Wednesday, “The conflict between federal and state law is a critical issue with nationwide implications,” and it hopes the Supreme Court will overturn the lower court’s decision.

Under the ruling of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, airlines should release California-based flight crews from all duties – even during flights – for 10 minutes every four hours, a break- 30-minute meal every five hours. , and another meal break after 10 a.m.

FAA rules set a 14-hour maximum workday for flight attendants during which they can take meal breaks but must remain on duty. This saves airlines the cost of adding flight attendants to cover those off duty.

Lawyers for the flight attendants who sued Virgin America say a 1978 federal law deregulating the airline industry gave the FAA exclusive authority over airline prices, routes and services, but not on other issues.

ABC News

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