In a move sure to cause tension between Boeing and arguably its best customer in the U.S., the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association filed suit against the planemaker today, alleging that Boeing misled the union when it claimed the 737 MAX flew just like its predecessor aircraft. Southwest flies a fleet made up exclusively of Boeing 737 aircraft. The suit is asking for $100 million in compensation for its pilots’ lost wages.
According to SWAPA, the lawsuit says “that SWAPA pilots agreed to fly the 737 MAX aircraft based on Boeing’s representations that it was airworthy and essentially the same as the time-tested 737 aircraft that its pilots have flown for years. These representations were false. “
“As pilots, there is nothing more important to us than the safety of our passengers,” said Captain Jonathan L. Weaks, president of SWAPA. “We have to be able to trust Boeing to truthfully disclose the information we need to safely operate our aircraft. In the case of the 737 MAX, that absolutely did not happen.”
According to the suit, “Boeing is liable to SWAPA for the damages it and its pilots have sustained, and continue to sustain, as the result of: Boeing’s false representations concerning the 737 MAX aircraft; Boeing’s interference in SWAPA’s contract and business relationship with Southwest that led to SWAPA agreeing to include the 737 MAX aircraft as a term of the CBA and to operate the aircraft; and Boeing’s negligence in self-certifying an aircraft that Boeing knew would be subject to a grounding order if the truth were discovered because it did not meet—and, to this day, does not meet—federal airworthiness requirements.”
SWAPA is also objecting to the fact that the grounding of the MAX has caused the airline to cancel some 30,000 flights. “This is expected to reduce the airline’s passenger service 8 percent by the end of 2019, resulting in compensation losses for SWAPA pilots in excess of $100 million,” said the pilots union.
SWAPA understands that it’s unlikely the MAX will be returned to service before next year. Yet, “it is critical that Boeing takes whatever time is necessary to safely return the MAX to service,” added Captain Weaks. “Our pilots should not be expected to take a significant and ever-expanding financial loss as a result of Boeing’s negligence. We look forward to a solution that helps Boeing restore the confidence of both the flying public and the pilots who operate its aircraft.”