High numbers of aircraft being out of service on any given day this week has prompted a stern memo to several hundred Southwest Airline mechanics, including 80 based in Las Vegas.
The memo from Lonnie Warren, Southwest’s senior director of tech ops production, called the airline’s situation a “state of operational emergency.”
Chicago Business Journal reporter Lewis Lazare obtained a copy of the memo on Friday and first reported about it.
The memo was sent to 277 mechanics in Houston, 167 mechanics in Orlando, 375 mechanics in Phoenix and another 80 in Las Vegas.
Some 2,400 mechanics work full time for Southwest. All mechanics belong to the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA).
Warren wrote in the memo: “We have been experiencing an unusually high number of out-of-service aircraft over the last few days. Due to this number of out of service aircraft, our operation requires all of our scheduled aircraft maintenance technicians and inspectors. We have an obligation to our customers and to our fellow employees to safely and efficiently run our operation.”
Southwest’s maintenance organization issued a call to maximize the number of mechanics available for work. On an average day, the airline plans for as many as 20 aircraft to be unexpectedly out of service for maintenance items. Each day this week, the percentage of out-of-service aircraft in our available fleet of approximately 750 aircraft, has more than doubled the daily average with no common theme among the reported items. To take care of our customers, we are requiring all hands on deck to address maintenance items so that we may promptly return aircraft to service. At the same time, our operational planners have been working in the background to minimize the impact to our customers.
— Southwest statement from Michelle Agnew
The airline is the most prolific carrier at McCarran International Airport, flying more than 15 million passengers in and out of the Las Vegas each year. There are no specifics if the number of planes out of service have caused an uptick in cancellations or delays at McCarran, the airline told News 3.
“On any given day, maintenance items and weather can result in daily cancellations for the airline operation,” Agnew said in an email Saturday. “The uptick in maintenance items we’ve experienced over the last few days have resulted in a slight increase in that number but we do not have a breakdown of cancellations per city attributed to weather versus maintenance. On a daily basis our operational teams work hard to manage cancellations within the operation in an effort to cause as little impact to our Customers as possible.”
The mechanics have been trying to negotiate a new contract with the airline since August 2012. The Chicago Business Journal described the talks as contentious.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to secure a new contract for our hard working mechanics,” Agnew wrote.