Southwest Declares “Operational Emergency” Over Out-of-Service Aircraft

Feb 16, 2019

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Southwest issued what it is calling an “Operational Emergency” this week after having more than double the normal number of aircraft in its available fleet out for maintenance. A memo obtained by The Chicago Business Journal was issued by Lonnie Warren, Southwest’s senior director of tech ops production, and had some stern words for the airline mechanics.

In the memo, Warren declared what he called “a state of operational emergency”. The memo went on to say that Southwest has “been experiencing an unusually high number of out-of-service aircraft over the last few days.” Warren added that, “Due to this number of out of service aircraft, our operation requires all of our scheduled aircraft maintenance technicians and inspectors,” and that any mechanics “alleging illness” will be required to provide a doctor’s note on their first day back to work. “Failure to comply may be considered insubordination and abuse of sick leave which could result in termination,” Warren said.

Southwest has been in negotiations for more than six years to get new contracts signed with its mechanics, all of whom are members of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA). The AMFA denied on Friday that a covert work action prompted the memo from Warren, according to The Chicago Business Journal.

Southwest responded via email to TPG’s request for comment on the situation with the following statement: “Southwest’s maintenance organization issued a call to maximize the number of Mechanics available for work. On an average day, the airline plans for as many as 20 aircraft to be unexpectedly out of service for maintenance items. Each day this week, the percentage of out-of-service aircraft in our available fleet of approximately 750 aircraft, has more than doubled the daily average with no common theme among the reported items. To take care of our Customers, we are requiring all hands on deck to address maintenance items so that we may promptly return aircraft to service. At the same time, our operational planners have been working in the background to minimize the impact to our Customers.”

Southwest didn’t say if any flights had been delayed or cancelled as a direct result in the uptick of out-of-service planes.

H/T: The Chicago Business Journal

Featured Photo by John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

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