Alaska Airlines Flight Attendants Navigate New Court Rulings On Work Rules

  • Alaska 737-800

    Alaska Airlines

    IATA / ICAO Code:
    AS / ASA

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Hub (s):
    Anchorage International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Portland International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

    Year Founded:


    Ben Minicucci

    United States

As the Bernstein v. Virgin America litigation recently concluded in favor of new California work rules, Alaska Airlines, post-merger with Virgin America, as per history documented by Simple Flying, is preparing to address upholding the California break rules. Although there are reports that Alaska Airlines management is considering withdrawing from California hubs (aka domiciles), Alaska Airlines and other airlines have time to negotiate the implementation of these work rules and new ones in Washington State.


March 15, 2022, InterVISTAS Study Warns of New Costs

New Calfironia work rules could make operating the US airline industry more expensive. Photo: AvgeekJoe Productions

As previously reported, InterVISTAS did an “economic analysis” for the US airlines’ lobby group Airlines for America on the ripple impacts of California’s Meal & Rest Break (MRB) legislation being extended to airlines as mandated breaks for cabin crew. One should remember these cost projections are for the US airline industry – not just Alaska Airlines – but the overall cost augmenting long-haul flights with the additional crew.

One option is to add one pilot and one flight attendant to every flight over four hours, so breaks are staggered while minimum crewing requirements under the California break laws are met. But even this would first impact ground crew with disruptions and cost the US airline industry $ 3.5 billion to implement.

Then there is the fact that airlines based outside the United States of America will not have the State of California break the law apply to them. This will put the international airlines at a clear competitive advantage versus US airlines when connecting the United States to international destinations.

AFA Reaches Out

Being a flight attendant is so much more than serving drinks and wearing a uniform. To quote AFA Union President Sara Nelson about her flight attendants, “We are working in an environment that is extremely physical and harder on our bodies.” Photo: AvgeekJoe Productions

In the wake of this decision, the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), Sara Nelson, reached out to Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci, saying in part;

There is a long history in California of labor and management in various industries reaching agreements on meal and rest break provisions that match the realities of their work environment. Together, we can fashion an agreement that recognizes the unique issues with aviation but also ensures the goals of the California law are met.

We will not agree to undermine the rights of our members as it applies to benefits under state law. … Especially when we are working in an environment that is extremely physical and harder on our bodies.

But Airlines for America made clear in a letter on June 4 that the association members do “Firmly believe that a uniform, national set of regulations – along with the flexible downtime policies in place at our member airlines – supports flight attendants’ personal wellbeing and serves the critical operational, competition and safety goals that Congress intended to advance with the Airline Deregulation Act. “

Nonetheless, the AFA Alaska local is unfazed. In a July 8, 2022 blog post, the local says;

Labor and management have a mutual interest in maintaining a healthy airline industry and to not unnecessarily disrupt the lives of our flight crews. By working together, we are confident that all parties can achieve a mutually agreeable path forward.

Worth noting that the work to negotiate a new contract between Alaska Airlines and the AFA Alaska local union for flight attendants has begun in earnest. Meanwhile, the pilots union is reporting on their latest podcast that negotiations are “making progress” in several key areas – and things are substantially better than last April.

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Washington State’s Paid Sick Leave Law Also In Play

Washington State Government has imposed a new sick leave requirement on employers. This sick leave requirement also alters the relationship between Alaska Airlines and her flight attendants.

Photo: AvgeekJoe Productions

Also running concurrently is the US Supreme Court also decided to let stand Air Transport Association of America, Inc., dba Airlines for America, v. The Washington Department of Labor & Industries et al. By doing so, flight attendants based in Washington State now enjoy the benefits of Washington State’s paid sick leave law.

According to the Washington State Government website, the paid leave benefit can be used for up to 12 weeks a year for recovery from “A major surgery, during pregnancy, to receive treatment for a chronic health condition and to receive inpatient treatment for substance abuse or mental health. ” One can also use the benefit to care for a family member in a health crisis, take leave to address domestic violence or bonding with a new baby or child in your family.

Finally, there is military family leave for immediately before or after a family member is going on an overseas deployment. Indeed, a comprehensive benefit that AFA Alaska says starts ninety days after an Alaska Flight Attendant’s “online / base orientation date.”

A July 15, 2022 blog post states that AFA Alaska is lobbying the airline hard to make the benefits apply to all of its members, considering arbitration precedent. Alaska Airlines management has yet to write back to the flight attendants’ union local.

Do you support these new work rules? Why or why not? Please let us know in the comments.

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