By Tracy Rucinski
(Reuters) – A senior Southwest Airlines official said the low-cost carrier would investigate why the number of aircraft unable to fly due to mechanical problems had doubled in recent days, resulting in flight delays and cancellations. .
"AMFA has long been experiencing work interruptions and Southwest has two lawsuits against the union," said chief operating officer Mike Van de Ven in a statement. The Brother Association of Aircraft Mechanics (AMFA) represents approximately 2,400 mechanics who service the carrier's Boeing 737 fleet.
Southwest has been negotiating with the union representing its mechanics for six years.
Van de Ven said the disruption had occurred despite no change in the low cost carrier's maintenance programs, leadership, policies or procedures.
"We will study the current disruption and explore all possible remedies," Van de Ven said.
Flight cancellations by Southwest accounted for about 24 percent of the approximately 800 flights canceled in the United States on Tuesday, according to FlightAware.com's flight tracking service.
Southwest said nearly half of its cancellations were related to unplanned maintenance issues, and the rest to anticipated winter storms in the Midwest and Northeast on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Last week, Southwest said it needed "everyone on the bridge" to process the maintenance items and that all employees would be required to provide a note to the doctor if they did not show up for work.
In response, the union stated that Southwest's requirements imposed non-contractual requirements with a threat of termination for non-compliance, and requested that its contract be complied with.
"We are only asking that we be allowed to do our work according to the federal law – nothing more, nothing less," the union said in a note posted on its website.
(Report by Tracy Rucinski in Chicago, edited by Sandra Maler and Lisa Shumaker)