The new service, which is expected to begin next month, will pressure profit margins by forcing the airline to discount early flights more than it had expected, analyst Catherine O'Brien said in a note to clients Wednesday. Despite this, the situation caused multiple major delays and cancellations.
The mechanics union and airline have been negotiating a new contract for six and a half years, but union members said this is a separate issue than aircraft maintenance.
Since Friday, the airline has declared a State of Operational Emergency at various maintenance stations to make sure its mechanics scheduled to work come in so they can return jets into service as soon as possible.
Contract negotiations between Southwest and its mechanics, represented by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), have been going on for several years and now involve a mediator. More than 40 aircrafts have been listed as having maintenance problems.
The operational emergency has to do with mechanical issues with planes.
Southwest cancelled 38 flights on Saturday and another 112 flights on Sunday, as flight-tracking website FlightAware indicates.
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The issues are affecting flights at Hobby Airport, where there are a handful of cancellations and about 14 delayed flights.
Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said in a statement on Tuesday that the all hands notice was meant to help get the aircraft safely back into the fleet. That created a domino effect, disrupting Southwest flights across the country. 2018 was the third-safest year ever in terms of the number of fatal accidents worldwide, according to the Aviation Safety Network.
"For Southwest's leadership to connect the airline's self-declared "operational emergency" to collective bargaining negotiations is simply an attempt to divert attention away from the airline's safety issues", the union said in an unsigned statement.
Two days ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that federal air-safety regulators are investigating Southwest over allegations of "widespread miscalculation of the total weight of checked bags loaded onto each of its flights".
The airline said in a statement to KTAR News that it "proactively canceled" more than 350 flights across the Midwest, Ohio Valley, and the Northeast due to weather but said it is also experiencing "higher than normal out of service aircraft". It also gave the airline the ability to assign staff longer work hours and switch assignments. The union is in the middle of contract negotiations with the airline and has claimed in the past that Southwest maintenance engages in "coercive" tactics.