In a move sure to cause tension between Boeing and arguably its best customer in the USA, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association filed suit against the planemaker today, alleging that Boeing misled the union when it claimed the 737 MAX flew just like its predecessor aircraft.
SWAPA said the 737 MAX grounding had caused the elimination of more than 30,000 scheduled Southwest flights since the grounding that were expected to reduce the airlines' passenger service by 8% by the end of 2019.
"Had Swapa been aware of MCAS and the true extent of differences between the 737 NG and the 737 Max, it never would have agreed to pilot the 737 Max", said the union, which represents almost 10,000 Southwest pilots. The union said it's seeking at least $115 million for damages sustained through the end of this year, primarily for lost pay and legal expenses. While we value our long relationship with SWAPA, we believe this lawsuit is meritless and will vigorously defend against it. "In the case of the 737 MAX, that absolutely did not happen".
It is not clear when the MAX will return to service: Boeing remains optimistic it will get the green light in the current quarter but airlines say it will take time to train pilots and get the planes flying.
Governments and airlines around the world have grounded the Boeing 737 MAX aircrafts since March after two crashes within six months of each other - in October 2018 and March 2019 - that killed a total of 346 people.
"As pilots, there is nothing more important to us than the safety of our passengers", said Captain Jonathan L. Weaks, President of SWAPA.
It also alleges the ongoing grounding of the 737 MAX - which has resulted in thousands of flight cancellations at many airlines including Southwest - has reduced the pilots' opportunities for work.
This figure means that the European planemaker is well ahead of Boeing, whose sales have been hit by its fast-selling 737 MAX jet being grounded.
The lawsuit, filed in a Texas state court in Dallas, could make it harder for Boeing to gain public confidence in the plane.
"We are very confident in that software solution, and we are now just marching through the final steps on certifying that, so that everybody's confident in the safety of the airplane", he said at a public appearance in NY.
Prior to the Max grounding, Boeing, which delivered 806 aircraft in 2018, was targeting 900 aircraft deliveries this year. In September, American Airlines said it would be forced to cancel 140 flights per day through December 3.
"Boeing has the greatest respect for the men and women who fly for Southwest Airlines", Boeing said in a statement.