Some of you who frequently fly Southwest Airlines, or have friends or co-workers flying the carrier, may have noticed the unusually high amount of cancellations the airline has had in recent weeks. Most notable to many travelers are that these are not weather-related cancellations. I was on a non-stop flight from Atlanta to St. Louis two weeks ago and a colleague of mine was on a non-stop Delta flight. My flight was to depart at 2:05 and the Delta flight 2:15. My flight was cancelled due to “inclement weather” but the Delta flight took off on time. Ultimately, I had to drive the 11 hours to St. Louis as my colleague had dinner in his St. Louis home.
It was announced last week that Southwest Airlines has sued its mechanics' union, claiming the union is encouraging mechanics to write up artificial aircraft maintenance reports that have no impact on flight safety.
Southwest alleges the strategy is designed to improve the negotiating position of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), whose members have been doing battle with the airline over a labor contract for six years.
Southwest says in the suit filed Thursday that the systemwide campaign by AMFA violates the Railway Labor Act, which governs the sequence of steps that airline unions must take during a collective bargaining process before turning to disruptive actions.
The lawsuit comes as mechanics' maintenance write-ups have forced Southwest to take more aircraft out of service over the past two weeks than is typical, resulting in canceled flights. Southwest canceled 117 flights on Thursday according to Flight Aware, more than any airline around the world that Flight Aware tracks. By comparison, American, United and Delta canceled 34, 20 and seven flights, respectively.
Two weeks ago, Southwest declared an operational emergency at maintenance bases in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Houston Hobby and Orlando due to the number of out-of-service aircraft. The carrier added its Dallas Love Field base to that list early last week.