The FAA admonished Southwest Airlines and one of its mechanics unions Friday not to let their bitter labor dispute harm air safety.
In late February, Southwest sued the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, a union that represents almost 2,500 mechanics, alleging a coordinated attempt to disrupt the airline’s flights. The two parties have been haggling over a new contract since 2012.
In the suit, Southwest alleges that AMFA mechanics have been writing frivolous reports on cosmetic and minor maintenance issues that have caused Southwest to cancel or delay flights while the planes were taken out of service to deal with the infractions. The airline further suggests that these incidents had spiked so much that it could only be a coordinated campaign from the mechanics union.
Ali Bahrami, the head of aviation safety at the FAA, wrote to both parties Friday saying a breakdown in their relationship “raises concern about the ongoing effectiveness of the airline’s safety management system.”
“In the midst of litigation, I write to emphasize the importance of ensuring cooperatively, in accordance with FAA standards, the highest level of safety in the airline’s operations,” Bahrami wrote.
An FAA spokesman said the agency has increased its oversight of the airline “as a standard practice.”