Southwest Airlines Pilots Association Files 737 MAX Lawsuit Against Boeing

The pilots union for Southwest Airlines has filed a lawsuit against Boeing claiming the 737 MAX grounding has collectively cost their members in excess of $100 million. The lawsuit claims Boeing rushed the 737 MAX into production and purported it to be safe when it was not. Southwest Airlines was the largest US operator of the 737 MAX prior to the grounding, with 34 of the type in its fleet.

The Southwest Pilots Association filed a $100 million against Boeing yesterday. Photo: eyeImage via needpix.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) represents nearly 10,000 Southwest pilots. Alison Sider, writing in The Wall Street Journal, reports that SWAPA is arguing that the grounding has meant fewer opportunities for the pilots to work and earn money. SWAPA says the amount of lost income is in excess of $100 million.

The lawsuit by SWAPA, filed yesterday, Monday, October 7, 2019, in Dallas, Texas, is in addition to compensation talks being held between Southwest Airlines management and Boeing. Boeing has previously set aside $5.6 billion to compensate airlines affected by the 737 MAX grounding.

Provocative language and serious allegations

SWAPA is using provocative language in its lawsuit against Boeing and makes some serious allegations. In a statement provided to Simple Flying, SWAPA said Boeing made false representations regarding the airworthiness of the 737 MAX;

“The lawsuit, filed in the District Court of Dallas County, Texas, alleges 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 timetested 737 aircraft that its pilots have flown for years. These representations were false.”

Southwest Airlines has 34 Boeing 737 MAXs grounded. Photo: Bill Abbott via Flickr.

CNN cites the lawsuit as suggesting Boeing expediated the 737 MAX into the market and;

“… abandoned sound design and engineering practices, withheld safety information from regulators and deliberately misled its customers, pilots and the public” 

Said the President of SWAPA, Captain Jonathan Weaks;

“As pilots, there is nothing more important to us than the safety of our passengers. 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 initial Boeing response.

Boeing’s response has been measured. In a statement provided to Simple Flying, a Boeing spokesperson said;

“Boeing has the greatest respect for the men and women who fly for Southwest Airlines.  We are aware that their pilot union, SWAPA, has filed a lawsuit against Boeing related to the 737 MAX suspension of operations. 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.”

Still a long way to play out

The 737 MAX grounding has been dragging on since March 2019. There was some optimism the grounding would be lifted mid-year but that never eventuated. There is now some cautious optimism the grounding could be lifted towards the end of 2019 with aircraft going back into service shortly thereafter.

SWAPA has approximately 10,000 Southwest pilots as members. Photo: Paul Sullivan via Flickr.

But work on rectifying the issues surrounding the 737 MAX’s manoeuvring characteristics augmentation systems (MCAS) has been ongoing. Just last week, the NTSB said MCAS was not readily understood in a critical situation and recommended a redesign to make it “more intuitive”.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit filed by SWAPA yesterday may open the gates for lawsuits from other unions and organisations (other than the airlines themselves) impacted by the 737 MAX grounding. The Southwest Airlines flight attendants union is, for example, making some noises about taking action against Boeing.

The Boeing 737 MAX saga has a long way to play out.