• Southwest Airlines and American Airlines maintenance cultures are focus of new videos – Chicago Business Journal

    Posted on May 7, 2018 in Airline Safety Issues, News Release
    Southwest Airlines probably wasn’t looking for what it got from Lee Seham on Thursday. But the carrier got it any way — a 5 minute, 42 second video in which Seham presents an overview of what he purports to be the decline of the airline maintenance culture at the low-fare behemoth.

    Sehem didn’t stop with documenting that alleged decline at Southwest. For good measure, he recorded another video about the alleged degradation of the maintenance safety culture at American Airlines, the world’s largest airline.

    Seham identifies himself in the YouTube posting of the Southwest video as an attorney for Southwest Airlines whistleblowers, and in the American Airlines video as an attorney for American Airlines whistleblowers.

    In the Southwest video, Seham wastes no time announcing what the video’s goal is: “To bring to the public’s attention the decline of safety at Southwest Airlines, the major airline with the fewest mechanics per aircraft.”

    Seham also quickly notes that all documentary evidence in the video comes from two sources, the federal government and Southwest itself. Seham alleges this documentation substantiates that Southwest managers “coerce employees into turning a blind eye to aircraft damage.”

    The rest of the video goes on to provide more detail about Seham’s core allegation.

    Southwest responded today to Seham’s YouTube video with this: “Safety has always been our highest priority — from Day 1 to today and always. We have never and will never compromise the safety of our customers and employees. We are confident that our maintenance policies, procedures and programs ensure the safety and airworthiness of our aircraft.”

    Seham’s law office is outside New York City, but he flew to Dallas late last week to film the video after the Southwest Flight 1380 accident. An engine fan blade fractured causing an engine to explode on Flight 1380. Shrapnel from the explosion punctured a window in the plane, causing cabin depressurization. One passenger was partially sucked out of the plane. She subsequently died and became the first fatality on board a Southwest flight in nearly 50 years.

    The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the Flight 1380 accident. Its investigation will no doubt consider Southwest’s maintenance procedures, but the NTSB findings are not expected to be complete for 12 to 15 months, according to Southwest CEO Gary Kelly.

    Meanwhile, a second video from Seham posted yesterday raised concerns about American’s maintenance culture. At the top of the American Airlines video Seham references allegations made by American’s Chicago-based mechanics that managers had “pressured them not to record discrepancies, take shortcuts with maintenance activities, or improperly sign off on work which was not actually completed.”

    Per Seham, a Federal Aviation Administration investigation substantiated “all of the complainants’ allegations.”

    The rest of the 6 minute, 32-second video details more information about AA maintenance, including the allegation that American’s degradation of maintenance culture may be much more prevalent across American’s organization than the Chicago mechanics alleged.

    An America Airlines spokeswoman responded to Seham’s video with this: “In 2017 American safely transported more than 200 million customers on more than 2.2 million flights. Safety is at the forefront of every decision American makes, and we are proud of our strong safety culture and safety record. We are proud to employ more maintenance employees than any other U.S. airline and insource significantly more offer maintenance work than competitors.”

    American also had this to say about Seham: “The attorney here is linked closely with one of the most outspoken Transportation Workers Union leaders and is making a business of filing AIR21 (whistleblower) complaints at Southwest and American.”

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