Release #09.85
December 3, 2009

ALPA Praises Congress for Granting Pilots Family Medical Leave Benefits
Legislation Closes Loophole, Provides Airline Pilots Same FMLA Eligibility as Other U.S. Workers

WASHINGTON – Legislation passed by the U.S. House on Wednesday drew strong praise from the world’s largest pilot union for allowing airline pilots to qualify for the same Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits as other U.S. workers.

“Airline pilots welcome this legislation to put them on an equal playing field with other workers when it comes to taking the family medical leave they deserve and have earned to care for themselves and their families,” said Capt. John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA).

Existing law effectively excludes airline pilots from family medical leave because it requires employees to work at least 1,250 hours in a 12-month period. While airline pilots are on duty for much longer, they are paid according to the number of “flight time” hours they work.

“Flight time” reflects the time pilots spend operating the aircraft, but it does not include “duty time” spent planning flights, inspecting equipment, standing by for the next flight, or waiting out delays. Pilots spend many more hours on duty and away from home, but federal law prohibits them from working more than 1,000 hours of “flight time” annually. As a result of this technicality, airline pilots are not currently eligible for FMLA benefits.

The Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (S.1422) allows pilots and flight attendants to be eligible to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave, as other American workers may, to care for an ailing family member or themselves, or in the event of the birth or adoption of a child. Because their pay is determined by flight time rather than duty time, airline pilots will be required to work a total of 504 hours in a 12-month period. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the legislation on November 10, 2009. The bill will now go to President Obama for his signature.

“We salute the leaders of the U.S. House for passing this legislation and are especially appreciative of the dedicated efforts of Congressman Tim Bishop, Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, Senator Patty Murray, and Senator Lisa Murkowski to correct this injustice,” concluded Prater. “We hope that President Obama will swiftly sign this important bill into law.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilots union, representing nearly 53,000 pilots at 36 airlines in the United States and Canada.


Contact: ALPA Media Relations, 703/481-4440 or