Southwest filed a lawsuit against its mechanics alleging that the workers had created a security crisis to gain an advantage in the contract negotiations, intensifying the battle between the airline and the union that forced hundreds of canceled flights from one of the largest carriers in the country.
Thursday's lawsuit comes as rumors circulate that famous investor Warren Buffett could become the largest shareholder. Earlier this month, Berkshire CEO Hathaway – who is currently the Dallas-based carrier's second largest investor – said he was considering making a purchase at the "size of an elephant" in 2019, but noted that prices remained too high. The company also has an interest in Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.
Buffett had previously suggested that he could own a whole airline at one point and speculation grew when a Twitter account released unconfirmed information that he was negotiating to buy the remaining shares of Southwest at $ 75 the action. Southwest shares rose more than 4% on Thursday.
In a statement, the company said it did not comment on the rumors, but praised the "continued support of Berkshire".
As Southwest escalates its attacks against the Brotherhood of Aircraft Mechanics (AMFA), flight cancellations accumulate endlessly premature after the carrier has declared an "operational emergency" last week because of an increased number of out-of-use jets. .
On Thursday, the Dallas-based carrier canceled 108 flights, according to the FlightAware tracking website. This follows 168 cancellations Wednesday, 158 Tuesday, 147 Monday and about 193 Sunday.
In its lawsuit, Southwest alleged that the growing number of out of service devices was due to "cosmetic" problems reported by mechanics that did not affect their performance and accused of being a coordinated and illegal union effort.
"We continue to work diligently in the background to try to mitigate the impact on our customers," said a Fox Business spokesperson.
When asked if daily cancellations would continue at their current level, the spokesperson replied "We hope not." He declined to say whether the disruption had an impact on future flight schedules or ticket sales.
Despite the interruptions, the analyzes remain optimistic.
"Southwest Airlines is so highly regarded by its passengers and the industry that the market will usually forget an occasional misstep," Ivan Feinseth, chief investment officer at Tigress Financial Partners, told Fox Business.
Southwest operates approximately 4,000 flights a day during the week. Cancellations to date therefore represent a small percentage of its total travel volume. That number rises to 3,000 at weekends, giving mechanics time to get back to the maintenance of aircraft. And since he does not fly at night, Southwest is also able to handle the late night time.
In addition to maintenance issues, some of the interruptions are also due to adverse weather conditions that have also affected other airlines. But Southwest canceled more flights in the past week than any other major US carrier after doubling the number of daily decommissioned planes.
In a statement released last week, Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven attributed the increase to AMFA, a group he says has "a history of work disruption".
"Southwest has two lawsuits against the union. We will investigate this current disruption and explore all possible solutions, "he said in a statement released last week.
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The airline is negotiating with AMFA a new employment contract for more than six years. A spokesman said the company "is committed to ensuring that an agreement reflects what Southwest has always done, namely a leading pay in the industry."
The union – which voted against a previous bid because it did not include a pay increase of 16.7% – previously raised the question of why the airline had declared an "emergency "operational" during this incident, but had not done so before when a passenger had been killed during a flight due to an engine failure.
And in a letter sent in February, AMFA warned against any collective action by members to stop working.
"As a federally registered aircraft maintenance technician, you have to make sure that the aircraft you are working on are carrying only airworthy passengers," said National Director Bret Oestreich. "There is no hidden message about it – the actions do not help you, neither your colleagues, nor the union."
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Aside from the dispute with its mechanics, Southwest is conducting a survey of the Federal Aviation Administration on how it calculates the weight of baggage on flights.
The carrier also recently said the 35-day government shutdown would cost it $ 60 million in the first quarter of 2019. No additional financial information is expected before the results are released in April.