Boeing and Southwest Airlines conspired to hide flaws in the 737 Max jet, a lawsuit alleges

Aviation
A group of Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft sit on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on March 13, 2019, after the jet was grounded by U.S. regulators. (Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

“This action seeks to hold Southwest and Boeing responsible for their reckless, greedy conspiracy to launch the defective 737 Max 8 and to keep it flying,” says the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

The suit was filed on behalf of nearly a dozen passengers who traveled on a 737 Max between Aug. 29, 2017 and March 13, 2019, the date the planes were grounded in the wake of fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people.

“We intend to vigorously defend against the claims in the filing and strongly believe that the allegations made are completely without merit,” Southwest said in a statement. “Safety has always been Southwest’s most important responsibility to both our Customers and our Employees and we stand ready to fully comply with all requirements to safely return the Max aircraft to service.”

Officials at Boeing declined to comment on the suit.

The lawsuit alleges that Southwest is profitable in part because of its “collusive relationship with codefendent The Boeing Company (“Boeing”).” It said that because Southwest’s entire fleet consists of Boeing-built airplanes the company enjoys a special relationship with the aviation giant.

Southwest has 34 of the 737 Max 8 jets in its fleet of about 750 planes, the most of any U.S. carrier. The airline has canceled flights on the aircraft through Oct. 1.

Some of the allegations in the lawsuit, mirror other legal claims against Boeing, including those filed by victims’ families, who allege that the manufacturer failed to warn pilots and the public about issues with an automated anti-stall system known as the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system or MCAS. Preliminary investigations into both the Oct. 29, crash of a Lion Air flight and the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight point to a malfunction with MCAS as a factor in both crashes.

The lawyers, who filed the suit on behalf of plaintiffs who reside in several states including, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, New York and Nevada, are seeking a jury trial. All the plaintiffs said they would not have purchased tickets had they known about the dangers posed by the aircraft.

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