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Southwest Mechanics Union Force Action

FAA increases oversight and is now sending unusual letters to the company and the union

Brian Young's picture
Mar 12, 2019

Just days after Southwest Airlines filed a lawsuit against their mechanic's union for taking planes out of service for safety issues, the airline is coming under new pressure from consumers and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)  over their safety issues.

In a letter from the FAA to the union and the company, the FAA warned that a contract fight could hurt the airline’s safety program. The letter, which came from the administration’s top safety official, warned that a breakdown in the relationship was “raising concern” and urged both sides to cooperate in and work together to achieve FAA safety standards.

The letter came at a difficult time for Southwest Airlines. As UCOMM previously reported, the company recently filed a lawsuit alleging that the mechanics union, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), was participating in an illegal job action by classifying an increased number of planes as unsafe to fly. In response, the union filed their own lawsuit on Friday alleging defamation on the part of the company and their CEO.

The fight between the company and the union comes as Southwest Airlines is coming under increased safety scrutiny following the crash of a second Boeing 737 Max. The crash of the Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max was the second crash in the last six months for the plane. Southwest Airlines currently has 34 of these planes, the most of any American carrier. Following the crash, customers have been pressuring the airline to take the plane out of service until a full investigation is conducted. Unions have followed suit with the Transport Workers Union, who represents aircraft mechanics, baggage handlers and flight attendants at Southwest and other airlines said in a tweet that all 737 Max need to be grounded.

Other unions, including the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, have followed calling for all 737 Max to be grounded until the flight data can be looked at. At Southwest Airlines, AMFA alleges that the bosses have pressured their members to get planes back into service, even if the mechanics didn’t think that the plane was safe enough to fly. Other countries including the European Union, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, and Germany have grounded these planes in response, but the FAA has so far refused to put customer and flight crew safety ahead of Boeing’s profits.

According to government and industry insiders, the FAA sending a letter like this is highly unusual. Robert Mann, a longtime executive and consultant said to the AP “good for them for raising the issue. Safety has to be paramount, superseding everything.” With safety concerns over the workhorse of Southwest Airlines fleet, FAA pressure may force both sides back to the bargaining table for some much-needed bargaining sessions.

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