Southwest Airlines May Have Just Solved Its Reliability Problem With New Mechanics Deal

With Southwest Airlines now selling tickets to Hawaii they should be flying high. Not only is this a new desirable market, it should support credit card acquisitions because customers can now spend their points for more aspirational destinations.

But the carrier has been hobbled.

  • Mechanics slowing down the airline. The carrier argues their mechanics have been writing up frivolous items and unnecessarily grounding planes as contract negotiations dragged on.
  • Grounding of the 737 MAX. Southwest, an all-737 operator, is has 34 MAX aircraft compared to 24 at American.

The ground of 3% of the airline’s fleet is manageable — when their broader fleet isn’t getting grounded unexpectedly based on the creativity of employees working at cross-purposes from the airline. In some cases unscheduled aircraft downtime quintupled.

Now the ‘unscheduled aircraft downtime’ should come to an end because Southwest and its mechanics have agreed to a new contract with big wage increases.

Things had gotten pretty nasty, with the airline taking its employees to court. Acrimonious labor relations are anathema to the culture of the airline. Fortunately for customers, even if there’s lingering resentment it’s not among flight attendants or customer service agents. And a big up front raise may help ameliorate bitterness.

Now American Airlines needs to improve its reliability by striking a deal with its mechanics.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Will be interesting to see if the serious maintenance issues somehow disappear after the agreement. If so, just another data point on the purpose and goals of unions, none of which are typically customer friendly.

  2. So mechanics who voluntarily agreed to work for the airline to start with and are free to leave at any time instead intentionally cause harm and as a result get a significant and likely undeserved raise. The airline solves the immediate problem. Who is going to pay for this? I think I have an idea.

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