Southwest flight attendants’ union considers suing Boeing over wages lost in 737 Max grounding

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A group of Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft sit on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona.

Ralph Freso | Getty Images

The union that represents the roughly 17,000 Southwest Airlines flight attendants is considering suing Boeing over lost pay in the protracted grounding of the 737 Max, a union official said Wednesday.

Southwest’s pilots union sued Boeing last month over what it said was $100 million in lost wages because of the grounding.

The low-cost airline, which operates an all-737 fleet, is the largest customer of the planes in the U.S. and had 34 in its fleet with another 200 more on order at the time of the grounding in March. Regulators around the world banned airlines from flying the plane after two crashes killed 346 people.

Southwest has had to cancel thousands of flights because of the grounding of the Max, and said last month that the flight ban has cost it $435 million in the first nine months of the year.

“Our schedules are being reduced,” said Chad Kleibscheidel, first vice president of Transport Workers Union Local 556. “We have bills to pay. Our pocketbooks are grounded. We are feeling the hits financially.”

Boeing declined to comment. Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly has said the airline plans to share some of the compensation it receives from Boeing because of the grounding with employees. “As always, we will take care of our nearly 60,000 southwest employees,” the airline said in a statement.

Boeing in July took a $4.9 billion after-tax charge to compensate airlines affected by the grounding, which is about to enter its ninth month. Other airlines that have bought Max planes include American and United.

Kleibscheidel did not say exactly how much flight attendants have lost in income but said the grounding has cost some flight attendants more than $1,000 a month and that they are concerned about lighter paychecks close to the holiday season.

“We are exploring every option. That includes litigation,” he said, adding that the union’s leaders plan to discuss a potential suit at a meeting next week.

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