Southwest blames mechanics for hundreds of flight cancellations

Southwest blames mechanics for hundreds of flight cancellations

As a direct result of the Southwest-created emergency: (1) sick mechanics who have not had the opportunity to see a doctor will have to work through their illness, (2) vacations, holidays, and shift trades will be disrupted, (3) bid seniority will be dishonored, and (4) technicians will be forced to work mandatory overtime irrespective of their child care obligations or state of fatigue.

After pulling planes and canceling hundreds of flights, Southwest Airlines is offering an apology to travelers - and blaming the union that represents aircraft maintenance technicians.

The cancellations come after a CBS News investigation reported airline mechanics from American and Southwest said they felt pressured to overlook potential safety issues in order to keep flights moving on time. It also gave the airline the ability to assign staff longer work hours and switch assignments.

"We will be investigating this current disruption and are exploring all possible remedies", the Dallas-based airline's Chief Operating Officer Michael Van de Ven said. "But Southwest Airlines has the fewest mechanics to aircraft of any major carrier", the statement read. The airline has two pending lawsuits against the union and has been in contract talks with it for more than six years.

"That should be alarming to everybody, including management", Bret Oestreich, the union's national director, told The Associated Press recently.

Southwest has been in contract negotiations with its mechanics union since 2012.

The company meanwhile is grappling with what it called an "unprecedented number" of aircraft taken out of service for mechanical issues.

"For Southwest's leadership to connect the airline's self-declared "operational emergency" to collective bargaining negotiations is simply an attempt to divert attention away from the airline's safety issues", the union said in an unsigned statement.

He added that "now we are threatened with the further coercive pressure of litigation". The most recent proposal by Southwest was to increase annual pay and include bonuses, which was rejected by the union workers. "That is why the FAA has heightened its oversight of Southwest during this time".

The US Federal Aviation Administration is investigating how Southwest Airlines tracks the weight of checked bags on its flights.

FBN's Susan Li on the FAA's investigation into Southwest Airlines over baggage weight discrepancies.

The emergency affected Southwest's fleet of Boeing 737s.

"Sometimes if you get a hiccup or three hiccups and aircraft need service that's not part of the regular program, that can throw your schedule off pretty fast", said Bill Waldock, a crash investigator and professor of safety science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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