Southwest pilots sue Boeing over alleged lost wages from 737 MAX grounding

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A number of grounded Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft are shown parked at Victorville Airport in Victorville, California© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A number of grounded Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft are shown parked at Victorville Airport in Victorville, California

By Tracy Rucinski

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) said on Monday it filed a lawsuit against Boeing Co (N:) alleging that the grounding of the planemaker’s 737 MAX aircraft had caused over $100 million in lost wages.

Southwest Airlines (N:) is the largest operator of the MAX with 34 jetliners in its fleet at the time of a worldwide grounding in March following two fatal crashes. It had 41 more MAX jets on order for this year alone, but deliveries remain frozen.

In a statement, pilot union SWAPA said the lawsuit alleges its pilots agreed to fly 737 MAX jets based on Boeing’s representations they were airworthy and similar to previous, “time-tested” 737 models they had flown for years.

“These representations were false,” SWAPA said.

“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,” it said.

In response to the lawsuit, Boeing spokesman Chaz Bickers said: “While we value our long relationship with SWAPA, we believe this lawsuit is meritless and will vigorously defend against it.”

The planemaker said it will continue to work with Southwest and its pilots on efforts to safely return the MAX to service.

SWAPA said the 737 MAX grounding had caused the elimination of more than 30,000 scheduled Southwest flights since the grounding that were expected to reduce the airlines’ passenger service by 8% by the end of 2019.

Southwest is scheduling without the MAX until at least early January, pending regulatory approval for the planes to fly again.

SWAPA, which represents around 10,000 Southwest pilots, said it filed the lawsuit in the District Court of Dallas County, Texas.

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