January 5, 2009 / 7:07 PM / 10 years ago

Airlines fight FAA crew rest requirements

American Airlines jets taxi to and from gates at O'Hare International airport in Chicago, Illinois December 24, 2008. REUTERS/Frank Polich

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Seven U.S. airlines have sued the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, claiming the agency broke its own rules and may have compromised flight safety when it set new standards for pilot rest times last year without input from the carriers.

The airlines, including AMR Corp’s American Airlines, Continental Airlines and UAL Corp’s United Airlines, filed the lawsuit on December 24 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The airlines said in the complaint that they should have had a chance to comment on the rules, which would place yet another financial burden on them.

“FAA has neither demonstrated how the rule will advance safety, considered the potential that the rule may actually diminish safety, nor justified the significant costs of the rule against any purported benefit,” the carriers said.

Delta Air Lines, which recently merged with Northwest Airlines, was not a party to the lawsuit. Both Delta and Northwest have negotiated separate rules with the FAA governing crew rest requirements on long-haul flights.

The FAA did not comment on the lawsuit on Monday.

The government rules require additional rest time and longer layovers for pilots on nonstop flights that last more than 16 hours. To comply, airlines would have to put more pilots on those flights and provide more in-flight rest facilities for them.

These changes would drive up labor costs for airlines, which hope to claw their way out of a financial downturn in 2009.

The vast majority of international flights are shorter than 16 hours, but weather delays can unexpectedly lengthen trips and pilots’ workdays.

Reporting by Kyle Peterson; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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