Eight Southwest Airlines flight attendants have filed a proposed class action in which they allege they lost wages as a result of Boeing’s misrepresentations of the safety of its now-grounded 737 Max airplanes. The plaintiffs claim roughly 17,000 Southwest flight attendants have lost and continue to lose wages due to Boeing’s apparent concealment of the design and safety defects that forced the grounding of all 737 Max aircraft more than a year ago.
According to the lawsuit, airlines who bought planes from Boeing and their employees reasonably relied on the defendant’s representations with regard to the safety of the 737 Max jet and expanded and trained their workforces accordingly. After the October 2018 crash of Lion Air Flight 610 and March 2019 crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, however, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded all 737 Max planes, leaving Southwest Flight attendants with thousands fewer flights to work on than anticipated, the suit says.
Southwest flight attendants get paid per flight, the lawsuit explains, a fact the plaintiffs stress Boeing was well aware of due to its longstanding position in the industry and role as Southwest’s sole aircraft supplier. Airlines make staffing decisions based on the number of flights they can offer, which the suit says is directly tied to the number of safe aircraft a company has or is expected to have. As the lawsuit tells it, Boeing took advantage of its relationship with Southwest in an effort to fill orders for hundreds of 737 Max aircraft to be delivered in the future.
According to the lawsuit, Southwest was the largest 737 Max operator, with 34 jets scheduled for flight and another 20 aircraft set to be delivered and incorporated into the flight schedule by the end of 2019. The grounding of the 737 Max resulted in thousands of flight cancellations, thereby limiting Southwest flight attendants’ ability to earn income, the lawsuit alleges.
Compounding matters was that Southwest allegedly brought on and trained “a significant number” of extra flight attendants to work on the 20 new 737 Max jets set to be delivered over the next several years. The suit claims the grounding of the planes caused both veteran and new Southwest flight attendants to lose even more income due to the discrepancy between the number of available aircraft and the higher number of flight attendants.
“Boeing is liable to [Southwest flight attendants] for the damages they have sustained, and continue to sustain, as the direct and proximate result of Boeing’s defective design of the 737 Max and Boeing’s omissions and false representations concerning the 737 Max to Stakeholders and the public,” the plaintiffs claim.
The Southwest flight attendants’ class action echoes a complaint filed last July by pilots who similarly alleged their livelihoods were affected by Boeing’s cover-up of the 737 Max jet’s design flaws. ClassAction.org’s coverage of additional lawsuits filed in the wake of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes and the 737 Max jet’s indefinite grounding can be found here.