The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association is suing The Boeing Company for $100 million in lost income connected with the grounding of the 737 MAX aircraft. Southwest is the largest owner of 737 MAX airplanes and has canceled more than 30,000 flights since the FAA grounded the aircraft in March after two crashes killed 346 people.
The union represents nearly 10,000 pilots. In a statement, union president Captain Jonathan Weaks said, “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.”
The union has been negotiating with Boeing for compensation since early September but has not been able to come to an agreement.
By the end of the year, Southwest Airlines passenger service will have been reduced by about 8% because of the MAX grounding, pilot income is based in part on the number of hours pilots fly. This summer the airline removed the planes from its schedule through the beginning of January.
The union filed the suit in federal court in Dallas. The filing accuses Boeing of rushing the redesigned 737 to market, prioritizing the company’s profits over safety and sound design and engineering practices. “Boeing … withheld critical information from regulators and deliberately mislead its customers, pilots and the public and the true scope of the design changes to the 737 Max,” the complaint stated.
In a statement Boeing said it “has the greatest respect for the men and women who fly for Southwest Airlines. … We believe this lawsuit is meritless and will vigorously defend against it. We will continue to work with Southwest Airlines and its pilots on efforts to safely return the MAX to service.” In the second quarter the company reported its largest loss ever, $3.7 billion.
In October of last year, 189 people were killed when Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea, 13 minutes into the flight. Then on March 10 of this year, 157 souls were lost on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi when another 737 Max 8 aircraft crashed six minutes after takeoff. The investigation revealed the Ethiopian passengers and crew endured the same terrifying roller coaster flight path before crashing as the Indonesian plane. Within days, aviation authorities around the world began grounding the Max.