Southwest Airlines cancels about 100 flights across country due to maintenance issues

Daniel Fowler
February 20, 2019

After the most recent round of negotiations, Southwest said it experienced "an unprecedented number of out-of-service aircraft in four specific maintenance locations".

While Southwest previously estimated the lapse in funding would cost it $10 million to $15 million in the first quarter of 2019, the airline said in a federal filing on Wednesday that it would result in a loss of closer to $60 million.

Southwest Airlines canceled more than 100 flights over the Presidents Day weekend not from weather or crew issues but because more than twice the number of its Boeing 737s were out of service for maintenance. Southwest Airlines is expecting an "all hands on deck" approach to resolving the issue but has recently made claims that the maintenance issues could be traced back to the actual mechanics disrupting their service.

Southwest Airlines Co added a $60 million hit from the recent US government shutdown to its list of headaches on Wednesday as it investigated whether a conflict with its mechanics union was adding to a rise in flight cancellations.

A war of words erupted Tuesday night between Southwest Airlines and the airline's mechanics union, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association or AMFA.

Last month, a CBS News investigation revealed that some of the airline's mechanics felt pressured to return jets to service faster.

The company said there's not a common theme as to what the problems are.

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A union spokesman said the episode "does not bode well for the airline's" operations.

Southwest has filed two lawsuits against the AMFA over the past six years of negotiations based on the performance of the mechanics, or lack thereof, because of contract issues.

Union representatives questioned the reasoning behind Southwest's decisin to declare an "operational emergency". "I have the highest confidence in the work that our mechanics do, and also that any issue that's brought up, any issue, is dealt with appropriately".

The mechanics union isn't happy the letter threatened termination. The memo gives the airline the ability to assign longer work hours and change staffing assignments.

Unfortunately, Southwest's response has been to increase the level of coercion and further degrade safety.

Southwest said in a statement to CNN Business that there's an "ongoing effort to track and voluntarily report operational data to the FAA so that we can mitigate and eliminate any operational risks".

The FAA said it is closely monitoring the situation.

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