Flight Attendants – Are You Getting Paid Fairly?

If you’re a flight attendant, you know there is a long list of duties you have to perform that aren’t necessarily visible to the passengers.  The truth is, you don’t get enough credit for all that you do to ensure that passengers are comfortable and safe when flying from point A to point B.  In addition to preparing the aircraft between flights, there are also pre-flight briefings, drink and snack distribution, and incident reporting. Completing these tasks are all considered “part of the job”, but some airlines don’t compensate you for the time you spend while the plane is on the ground.  Pretty unfair, wouldn’t you say? The Virgin America flight attendants thought so, too.

1,400 of Virgin Airline’s flight attendants filed a suit with the airline in 2015 for failing to pay its flight attendants for their time spent before, after, and between flights. They also weren’t paid for the time writing incident reports, time in training, or for time used to take mandatory drug tests.  The suit also claimed that flight attendants weren’t allowed to take meal or rest breaks. A California court agreed, and it awarded the flight attendants $85 million in penalties, damages, and interest.

Are you experiencing the same situation with your airline? Here’s a break down of California law and how it relates to the Virgin Airlines flight attendants.

Training & Breaks

Virgin Airlines flight attendants were paid during a specific “block time.”  In translation, this meant the time they spent training, filling out paperwork and waiting for passengers to enter and exit the plane was not considered compensable.  Flight attendants also claimed that they were not given adequate meal breaks. California law states that employees are entitled to one half-hour meal break for every five hours worked and two half-hour meal breaks for a 10-hour workday.


At The Carter Law Firm, we have noticed that there are a lot of people who are unfamiliar with the laws surrounding overtime. We don’t blame you, because overtime laws have changed over the years. Overtime pay can be provided depending on the employee and the hours they work within a certain period. An employee who works over 40 hours in a week must be paid one and a half times their regular rate for every extra hour they work. However, if that employee works over 12 hours in a day or over eight hours every day for seven consecutive days, they must be paid double their regular rate for every extra hour worked.  Overtime for a flight attendant can be time spent on anything such as filling out incident reports to cleaning the cabin after flights.

Misclassified as Exempt from Overtime Pay

Does your airline say that you are exempt from receiving overtime?  We’ve seen many cases where employers have misclassified employees as exempt. It’s best to make sure this is true according to the California Wage and Hour Labor Laws, rather than “company policy.”  Non-exempt employees can be compensated for overtime, whether they are hourly-based, salary-based or commission-based.

There are many ways that companies try to get out of paying their employees. And if you feel as though you or a friend in the airline industry is dealing with similar pay violations, you are not alone. At The Carter Law Firm, we understand the intimidation of going up against your employer, large or small. We specialize in wage violations and want to help you.