On July 17, 2018, photographed, ramp workers are preparing a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 for departure for the Denver Airport from the Minneapolis International Airport in Minneapolis. Southwest Airlines overcame rising fuel prices to meet its profit targets, although an in-flight disaster in which a passenger was killed had an adverse effect on his earnings. Second quarter earnings were $ 733 million, exceeding Wall Street expectations. (AP Photo / David Zalubowski) ORG XMIT: NYAG401 (Photo11: David Zalubowski, AP)
Southwest Airlines had to remove an unusually large number of aircraft from the service at the last minute this week, forcing the company to declare an "operational emergency" in a strong memorandum to the mechanics on Friday.
The airline, which had prolonged and often controversial contract talks with its mechanics, ordered everyone present to put the planes back in the air. Mechanics who call in sick while the emergency is in place will need a detailed note from the doctor when they return, the memo says. Without this, they are likely to shoot. Vacation requests and shifts are also pending, unless already approved.
"This is not the type of communication that I (or any officer) wishes to issue, but it is necessary to put our aircraft back into service to serve our customers," said the memo from Lonnie Warren, senior director of technical operations, I said.
The situation is not as worrying as it may seem for travelers: the airline plans to unexpectedly decommission about 20 planes a day. A doubling of this number would bring this number to 40 out of 750 in its fleet. Until now, flight cancellations have not been generalized as debuts begin on extended vacation weekends and the February school holidays.
Southwest canceled 100 flights on Friday, more than any other US carrier, but still accounts for just 2% of its scheduled flights, according to FlightAware. Some deals with a reduced number of aircraft on duty, said Southwest West spokeswoman Brandy King, though without specifying the number and indicating that she was trying to minimize the impact. Southwest has set up a weather alert in several cities and generally cancels flights proactively so passengers are not stranded.
But this is the latest blow in a bitter conflict between the Southwest and its mechanics, represented by the Fraternal Association of Aircraft Mechanics. Contract negotiations have been ongoing for several years and currently involve a mediator. The key locking point is Southwest's willingness to outsource some of the maintenance.
The note, reported for the first time by the Chicago Business Journal, was sent to employees of Southwest Maintenance Bases in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Orlando and Houston.
Such emergency operations are often reported as a result of high absenteeism. Another possible reason for the decommissioning of a growing number of devices, appeared in other labor disputes in the industry: the mechanics are doing as they should, writing more aircraft problems than usual, which slows down operations.
Bret Oestreich, national director of the mechanics' union, challenged the idea, saying the mechanics in the South West worked normal hours and overtime. He added that the airline had carried out a greater number of FAA inspections following a CBS report stating maintenance issues.
He also said that Southwest was missing aircraft, as 22 aircraft were recently decommissioned for inspections of their "o-rings" engine. (Southwest indicates that the inspections were completed and the aircraft returned to service.)
Oestreich criticized the southwest for declaring the state of emergency.
"Unfortunately, Southwest's response has been to increase the level of coercion and further degrade security," he said Friday in a message to members.
He added that the "emergency situation created in the south-west" would force the mechanics who had not yet had time to consult a doctor to go to work and that the additional hours possibly required, another product derived from the emergency status, would be detrimental to mechanics with childcare obligations or fatigue of their regular shift.
"Regardless of the severity of the provocation, AMFA is asking its members not to be lured by acts of defiance that will be characterized as insubordination," Oestreich said in the memo. . "We must follow the adage" work now, grieve later "
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