Southwest Pilots Union Sues Boeing Over 737 Max Grounding

October 8, 2019, 2:52 PM UTC

No carrier has been more adversely affected by the ongoing grounding of Boeing 737 Max planes than Southwest Airlines. Now the people who fly those planes are suing the aircraft manufacturer, accusing it of negligence and fraudulent misrepresentation when it was marketing the Max.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association filed the lawsuit on Monday in Dallas, saying Boeing “made a calculated decision to rush a re-engined aircraft to market to secure its single-aisle market share and prioritize its bottom line.” The unions says the reduction in flights resulting from the Max’s problems have cost pilots an estimated $115 million in compensation.

The suit accuses Boeing of abandoning “sound design and engineering practices, [witholding] critical safety information from regulators and deliberately [misleading] its customers, pilots and the public about the true scope of design changes to the 737 Max.”

Boeing, says the union, pitched the Max as essentially the same aircraft as the well-established 737.

Boeing, in a statement to Fortune, said it 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.”

The 737 Max has been grounded since March, following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet. A Lion Air plane went down off the coast of Indonesia in October. In both disasters, a once-obscure flight-control system went haywire, nudging the planes’ noses down until pilots were overwhelmed.

Boeing says the planes will return to service soon, as it finalized a software upgrade for the flight control computers, but it will still need to complete a certification flight with officials before the flying ban could be lifted.

Southwest, which owns 34 737 Max jets, has taken the plane off of its schedules through Jan. 5, in case the grounding lasts through the holiday season.

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