The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association on Monday sued The Boeing Co., [NYSE: BA]claiming the manufacturer engaged in fraud and that the grounding of the 737 MAX by regulators is costing its pilots millions of dollars in lost wages each month.
In a complaint filed Oct. 7 in the District Court of Dallas County, Texas, the union said the manufacturer deliberately misrepresented the airworthiness of the MAX as equivalent to earlier 737 versions despite the addition of anti-stall software that pilots were not told how to override when triggered by faulty sensor readings of a steep takeoff angle.
“Boeing’s misrepresentations caused SWAPA to believe that the 737 MAX aircraft was safe, and that it was to SWAPA pilots’ economic advantage to agree to fly the 737 MAX aircraft for their employer, Southwest Airlines,” the complaint said.
“Had SWAPA known the truth about the 737 MAX aircraft in 2016, it never would have approved the inclusion of the 737 MAX aircraft as a term in its collective bargaining agreement. Worse still, had SWAPA known the truth about the 737 MAX aircraft in 2016, it would have demanded that Boeing rectify the aircraft’s fatal flaws before agreeing to include the aircraft in its CBA, and to provide its pilots, and all pilots, with the necessary information and training needed to respond to the circumstances that the Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 pilots encountered nearly three years later,” the lawsuit said.
Southwest [NYSE: LUV] pilots have lost more than $100 million in compensation so far, the union said in a news release. The suit seeks damages for lost wages, as well as legal fees associated with responding to the Department of Justice’s investigation into the MAX certification and a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into Boeing’s safety disclosures.
“Boeing’s errors cost the lives of 346 people, damaged the critical bond between pilots and passengers, and reduced opportunities for air travel across the United States and around the world,” the union said in the news release.
Southwest officials say the grounding has eliminated 8% of its expected capacity this year, with more than 30,000 flights canceled.
Southwest is the largest operator of the 737 MAX. The Dallas-based carrier had 34 737 MAX aircraft in operation when the no-fly order was issued and was supposed to have another 34 delivered by the end of the year. Boeing is still making planes, but deliveries remain on hold. Boeing officials say they expect the Federal Aviation Administration to lift the grounding as soon as next month after reviewing Boeing software and other safety fixes, but airlines say it will take many weeks for the planes to undergo mechanical preparations and be fitted into their schedules.