The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) has filed a lawsuit against Boeing accusing the company of misrepresenting the safety of its 737 Max jets – the same aircraft involved in two deadly commercial flights – which led to a global grounding of the aircraft and cost pilots more than $100 million in lost wages.
Boeing’s 737 Max jets were grounded earlier this year following the October 2018 Lion Air Flight 610 crash, which killed 189 people, and the March 10 crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which killed 157 people. Investigations into both accidents are still underway, but early reports link the cause of both crashes to the jet’s malfunctioning flight control system. Both Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are being blamed for failing to properly inform pilots about the new software or to regulate its safety.
“Boeing’s false representations, made directly to SWAPA, caused SWAPA to agree, despite its initial reluctance, to include the 737 MAX as a term in its collective bargaining agreement with Southwest,” the union said. “The aircraft’s grounding is now causing SWAPA pilots to lose millions of dollars each month because the 737 MAX was removed from Southwest’s flight schedule, and from SWAPA pilots’ paychecks as well.”
As a result of the grounding, SWAPA said that Southwest had to cancel 30,000 flights, which is expected to reduce the airline’s passenger services by 8% by the end of 2019, translating into tens of millions of dollars in lost compensation for pilots.
In a statement to Law360, Boeing called the lawsuit “meritless,” and said it plans to fight the allegations.
In July, several proposed class actions were filed in Illinois state court by pilots alleging the company hid defects and failed to train pilots on the new software glitch in its 737 Max jets. Families of crash victims are also suing Boeing for negligence and for rushing the jets to the market without ensuring their safety.
Mike Andrews is a lawyer in the firm’s Personal Injury and Products Liability section. He has represented people seriously injured in aviation crashes, and the families of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes. He is representing families of victims killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash. He also has written a book to assist other aviation lawyers, “Aviation Litigation & Accident Investigation.” The book offers an overview to the practitioner about the complexities of aviation crash investigation and litigation.