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FAA cautions Southwest, association that agreement question could present safety concerns

The Federal Aviation Administration cautioned Southwest Airlines and an association representing its mechanics in a letter on Friday that their delayed contract question could pose safety concerns.

The letter cautioned that a “breakdown in the relationship” between the airline and the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association “raises concerns about the ongoing effectiveness of the airline’s safety management system.”

Southwest and the association did not quickly remark on the letter, which noticed that the FAA is neutral on the labor dispute.

Southwest and the association, which have been in contract negotiations since 2012, are locked in an escalating battle that last week saw the aircraft record a claim requesting that a government judge mediate.

Chief Gary Kelly said not long ago the question is costing Southwest a huge number of dollars in lost incomes seven days just as a large number of dollars in costs identified with flight retractions and postponements.

The association — which represents in excess of 2,400 Southwest mechanics — disparaged the comments as “a way to distract the public from Southwest’s own degrading safety standards.”

A FAA representative told Reuters: “As a standard practice, we have increased oversight at this time.”

The FAA letter, from the associate administrator for aviation safety, Ali Bahrami, said he wrote to “emphasize the importance of ensuring cooperatively, in accordance with FAA standards, the highest level of safety in the airline’s operations.”

The FAA believes the aircraft and association will work to guarantee “that any judicial order that might result from the litigation does not constrain appropriate safety activities,” it included.

Dallas-based Southwest, one of the biggest domestic U.S. carriers, has said it is focused on working a sheltered fleet and that every maintenance report is examined.

An extraordinary number of out-of-service aircraft in recent weeks at four of Southwest’s maintenance areas has constrained the aircraft to postpone or cancel hundreds of flights.

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