Flight crews (flight attendants and pilots) often work long runs, frequently without rest breaks. Then, they are often asked to pull another run with only minimal time between shifts. Airlines are failing to pay for overtime, actual hours worked, and waiting time penalties and do not provide accurate wage statements for flight crews who are based in certain states, particularly California, or do more of their work there than any other state.

For years, the airlines worked under the assumption that they did not need to follow state labor laws, citing federal preemption of protective state statutes with more airline-friendly federal legislation.

Under California law, employees need not “exclusively or principally” work in California to reap the benefits of California law. These airlines asserted that federal law shielded them from compliance with wage and hour rules imposed by the states.

However, in July 2022 Bernstein v. Virgin America (now Alaska Airlines) was resolved in favor of flight attendants, finding the airline improperly failed to provide meal and rest break requirements, accurate wage statements, and waiting time penalties under California law. That case had awarded the class $77 million. In the short time since that case became final, Booher v. JetBLUE was settled for $3.6 million paid to over 500 California-based flight attendants. It is also believed that a case was settled for Southwest Airlines flight attendants before suit was filed.

The airlines are responding to these cases, trying to spread false messaging. They are sending a message, trying to convince flight attendants that they do not need or want the rights provided by state law and that following California law is so onerous that it could lead to an industry collapse.