- The head of the pilots union for Southwest Airlines issued a sharp criticism of Boeing, accusing the aviation giant of trying to rush the return of the plane.
- "Boeing is increasingly publicizing that they may have to shut down their production line due to running out of room to store completed MAX aircraft," Weaks wrote in a letter to Southwest pilots "There is some concern that this is simply another tactic to push the RTS [return to service] timeline up."
- Weaks went on to accuse Boeing of "arrogance, ignorance, and greed" in its approach to the 737 Max.
- The 737 Max has been grounded globally since March after two crashes involving the aircraft killed a total of 346 people.
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The head of the pilots union for Southwest Airlines issued a sharp criticism of Boeing, accusing the aviation giant of trying to artificially speed up the return of the plane.
In the letter, Jon Weaks, the president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) told colleagues that he was concerned about what he said is Boeing "increasingly publicizing" the negative consequences of the plane remaining grounded.
He accused Boeing executives of using these stories as a way of pressuring regulators and airlines to get the plane back in the sky as soon as possible.
All 737 Maxes have been grounded since the second of two deadly crashes that killed 346 people.
Boeing and many individual airlines have said that the grounding, which has now gone on for eight months, is costing them vast sums of money. Southwest has more 737 Maxes than any other airline, with 34.
Weaks wrote: "Boeing is increasingly publicizing that they may have to shut down their production line due to running out of room to store completed MAX aircraft... There is some concern that this is simply another tactic to push the RTS [return to service] timeline up."
Doing so, Weaks said, could also be an attempt to "force operators to resume making payments on MAX aircraft, transfer some costs, logistics, and responsibilities of storing and restoring the MAX to revenue service to respective operators."
Boeing earlier this week said that it now expects to start delivering new 737 Max aircraft to airlines in December, before they are formally approved to fly again.
The plane-maker gopes to have pilots deliver the jets to airline customers after the plane's main certification is complete but before new training procedures are finalized, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Weaks went on to accuse Boeing of "arrogance, ignorance, and greed" in its approach to the 737 Max.
"Boeing will never, and should not ever, be given the benefit of the doubt again. The combination of arrogance, ignorance, and greed should and will haunt Boeing for eternity," Weaks wrote.
"I strongly concur with Southwest exploring obtaining a different and perhaps non-Boeing aircraft for the interest of all our futures," Weaks concluded.
Southwest currently operates a fleet of exclusively Boeing 737 aircraft, and has done for almost 50 years. But CEO Gary Kelly said during an earnings call in October that the airline is exploring alternatives.
"What I feel like we are obligated to do is just debate the wisdom, strategically, of having a sole source vendor and one fleet type," Kelly said, according to a report from travel website Skift.
The full memo, posted to Twitter by CBS Transportation Correspondent Kris Van Cleave, can be seen below:
—Kris Van Cleave (@krisvancleave) November 14, 2019
In a statement to Business Insider, Boeing did not directly address the criticism, but said it hopes to "re-earn" the trust of aviation workers like Weaks and his members.
The statement said: "We look forward to working with pilots, flight attendants and our airline customers to re-earn their trust."
"The Max will only be certified once regulators are completely satisfied that we have made all updates required and they determine the plane is safe to return to service."
Southwest Airlines is "confident in the work being done to return the MAX to service and continue to await additional guidance from Boeing and the FAA regarding timing and next steps," spokeswoman Brandy King said in a statement to Reuters.
Southwest operated 34 737 Max aircraft before the grounding, more than any other airline. It has pulled the plane from its schedule until at least March 6.
Weaks' note to pilots is the latest in a series of complaints about Boeing by airline staff about what they see as their exclusion from the process of returning the 737 Max to service, and Boeing's mismanagement of the crisis.
Earlier in November, Lori Bassani, the head of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents 28,000 American Airlines crew members, sent a letter to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg asking for more of a say in bringing the plane back to the skies.
"The 28,000 flight attendants working for American Airlines refuse to walk onto a plane that may not be safe and are calling for the highest possible safety standards to avoid another tragedy," it said, according to a report from Reuters at the time.