After losing an appeal against a lawsuit that provides flight attendants in the state with extensive meal break guarantees, Alaska Airlines told flight attendants that it might close crew bases across California.
As the airline searches for a solution to comply with California’s employee break restrictions, Alaska Airlines informed personnel in a series of webcasts that closing crew bases was a “worst-case scenario” but remained a possibility.
According to the Labor Code of California, employees who put in more than five hours are entitled to a continuous 30-minute food break. Employees who work more than 10 hours must take a second break, and transportation workers are entitled to an additional 10-minute break for every four worked hours.
The rules are much more generous than federal regulations, which typically control work and rule-breaking for pilots and flight attendants. Airlines have warned that if they are required to adhere to local state regulations that regulate employee breaks, airfares will have to increase because they will need to hire more crews.
The lawsuit was initiated by a group of Virgin America flight attendants who claimed that the airline had violated California’s laws governing lunch breaks. Virgin America was added as a co-defendant and kept up its case after Alaska Airlines bought it.
Despite their best efforts, Alaska Airlines’ attorneys were unable to persuade a San Francisco appeals court to support the flight attendants’ position and require Alaska to abide by California’s labor rules.
Alaska appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, but last month, the nation’s top court denied Alaska’s request.
Closing crew sites across the state would be one way to bypass the labor code’s requirements without ceasing service to California since the decision only applies to flight attendants who are stationed in that state.
Alaska Airlines has come under fire from the flight attendant union for suggesting that it might close bases in California, claiming that such “dire warnings” are unnecessary.
“In our opinion, it is extremely premature and unnecessarily anxiety-provoking of management to suggest that downsizing or closing California domiciles is anything but a worst-case scenario,” the Association of Flight Attendants told its members.
Alaska Airlines says it is still “carefully evaluating how to balance California law with the federal rules that cover airline crew duties.”