Boeing’s 737 MAX has been a divisive issue amongst airlines employees and the traveling public. American Airlines flight attendants refuse to fly it while Southwest pilots sue Boeing because they can’t. What?!?
American Airlines Flight Attendants Refuse to Fly the 737 MAX
Representation from the Association Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) has stated this week following testimony in Washington DC from Boeing officials that they will not allow their members to fly unsafe aircraft, namely, the Boeing 737 MAX.
The question, then, that follows is how could American Airlines return the 737 MAX to the fleet without union support. The union won’t allow some of their members to fly the plane and not others. Their contract with the company won’t allow American to outsource 737 MAX employees for mainline flying, and even if they could find a way to do so, the cost and arduous process of implementing a fleet-specific staff would be a monumental undertaking.
Southwest Pilots Sue For Lost Hours
While the APFA may have to sue to keep their members from away flying the type, Southwest pilots are taking legal action because they can’t fly the planes. Southwest Airlines pilots are suing for lost wages in what would have constituted significant expansion for Southwest who already owns 34 MAX airframes.
The pilots are going after Boeing, for being responsible for delivering the aircraft safely and reliably to the carriers but in truth, the aircraft manufacturer has little power to return the plane to the skies. If Boeing has engineered the fix and made necessary changes to the plane, it’s still up to the FAA and other flight governing bodies to allow the planes to return.
Southwest pilots know that suing the FAA would be fruitless while Boeing may yield some financial relief. Whether the pilots receive remuneration as a result of a judgement or a settlement, the pilots are likely to see something come their way. The question then will be, what about the other employee groups at Southwest? A judgement would plow the way for ramp and gate agents, baggage handlers, flight attendants and even Southwest corporately to sue and win. If they are successful, what about the other affected carriers and their respective employee groups?
Is A Decision Near?
American Airlines representation issued their statement after Boeing CEO’s testimony before US lawmakers. The Southwest lawsuit has been in the works for some time following the grounding last year. The 737 MAX is experiencing a rolling delay in its quest to return to flying, every few months the plane is perceived to be just on the cusp of returning to flying and then doesn’t. The new target is the current quarter, Parker and Co. have put it on the schedule for January 16th.
Even if a decision is near, I suspect that other world regions will hold back their permission to fly. Europe’s governing body may wait awhile to ensure no new problems arise before allowing the 737 over their skies. If a January return happens in the US, that will release some of the tension built up around the plane, give some relief to Boeing as they prove that their aircraft is safe.
However, the longer the delay persists, the more likely it seems that the aircraft may not return at all.
Last week I asked the question as to whether or not the 737 MAX could bury Boeing (I hope that it doesn’t.) While some believe that the carrier is too big to fail, if the Southwest pilots win their lawsuit or the APFA sues to keep their members from flying it – the courts may make a situation so dire that Boeing has to rethink releasing the plane regardless of approvals. If the aircraft does return to service but the APFA successfully blocks their members from flying it, is the APFA protecting their membership or hurting their membership as Southwest pilots believe?
What do you think? Is the aircraft safe to fly? Is the labor union protecting their employees by fighting to keep them off the aircraft? Is it failing them by not allowing them to fly it if they so choose?