American Airlines has reached a $24 million settlement with California-based flight attendants who accused the airline of breaking a raft of local labor rules, including generous meal break provisions and overtime payments in a long-running class action lawsuit.
If approved by the court, the settlement, reported by aviation insider @xJonNYC on X, will cover all flight attendants who were based in California between 2015 and September 2023, with potentially thousands of crew members in line for a payout.
The case has been dragging on for several years in the Los Angeles Superior Court, but as part of the settlement agreement, the court will not rule on whether American Airlines actually broke the law.
California’s generous Labor Code grants employees who work for more than five hours an uninterrupted 30-minute meal break. A second break is required for employees who work for more than 10 hours, and transportation workers are generally entitled to an additional 10-minute break for every four hours at work.
A group of American Airlines flight attendants based in California sued the carrier because they didn’t receive these breaks, in part because they were working on flights and couldn’t simply stop in the middle of a service.
American Airlines could have gotten around this issue by paying flight attendants a meal break premium wage of one additional hour of wages, but the suit claimed that not only did AA not do this but that the airline also failed to make other overtime payments or pay flight attendants on time in accordance with local laws.
The suit mirrored a similar case brought by a group of Virgin America flight attendants who were based in California. Alaska Airlines, which acquired Virgin America before the case was settled, continued to fight the lawsuit and took the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
In a surprise move, SCOTUS denied Alaska’s petition for an appeal, meaning that a ruling by a San Francisco appeals court that sided with the flight attendants could not be challenged.
The appeal was denied even though Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar acknowledged that the lower court probably ruled in favor of the flight attendants by mistake.
In the American Airlines suit, the court will decide whether to grant the settlement early next year and if approved, flight attendants could receive a payout by May or June 2024.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.