American Airlines’ flight attendants union will determine this week if it has sufficient grounds to sue Boeing for damages resulting from the March 2019 grounding of 737 Max aircraft.

American Airlines’ flight attendants union will determine this week if it has sufficient grounds to sue Boeing for damages resulting from the March 2019 grounding of 737 Max aircraft.

“The voting board of directors of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) has expressed an interest in exploring the possibility of a lawsuit to seek damages from Boeing,” states Lori Bassani, APFA’s national president.

A local APFA president and other members have expressed internally a desire for the union to consider suing Boeing, as Southwest Airlines’ flight attendants union has done, Bassani states.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association filed a lawsuit against Boeing seeking damages for lost compensation during the Max grounding, while the Transit Workers Union (TWU) that represents Dallas-based Southwest’s flight attendants has publicly explored the option of suing Boeing, stopping short of litigation.

“APFA’s situation was compared to Southwest Airlines’s flight attendants’ position on the 737 Max,” Bassani says, pointing out that Dallas-based American “has several types of aircraft in their fleet, while Southwest depends mainly on the 737”.

American, which has canceled its Max flights through 5 March, has 24 Max jets in storage and 76 on order, Cirium fleets data shows.

Southwest Airlines has canceled all of its scheduled Boeing 737 Max flights through 6 March. Southwest has 34 Max’s in storage and 262 on order.

Bassani adds that although APFA and American negotiated pay protections in March covering flight attendants whose schedules and pay were affected by the Max grounding, “the grounds for a suit will be researched and determined by the APFA board this week”.


APFA has stated in previous weeks that members will not walk on an airplane that they are not certain is safe and has expressed dissatisfaction with Boeing’s overall communications in the wake of the Max grounding.

“We don’t believe that Boeing has done a great job – and even our company has done necessarily a great job – of communicating what this process is,” Allie Malis, APFA’s government affairs representative and an American flight attendant, told Cirium in early November. “We’re the ones who are in the airplanes with passengers and they look to us in important situations, especially safety related. And we officially haven’t been communicated with much from either the company or from Boeing. And so when we field questions, I don’t know if we are going to be equipped with all the answers.”

Malis says APFA has been in close contact with the Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents American Airlines pilots, and is taking cues from the pilots’ advocacy in ensuring the Max is safe to fly, whatever future assurances might come from Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration.

“Certainly without APA’s complete confidence we won’t be stepping onto that plane,” Malis says.

APFA on 13 November hosted a meeting in Dallas of the Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions, which was attended by government affairs and safety representatives from TWU, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), which represents United Airlines and Spirit Airlines flight attendants.

Following the meeting, Malis tells Cirium: “The takeaways regarding the Max is that we are all stakeholders and need to be involved in ensuring that the same mistakes aren’t made again. Boeing, air carriers and the FAA need to be working with us. Flight attendants will not walk onto an airplane that we are not sure is safe, and the Max won’t be able to fly without the FAA minimum crew of four flight attendants.”

Boeing will be hosting a stakeholder meeting in early December for flight attendants and pilots unions, according to Malis. “Most unions will be making independent evaluations based on the information shared with us,” she says.

“This is part of our ongoing efforts to share information about our efforts to safely return the Max to service,” a Boeing spokesperson tells Cirium. “We’ve had a number of similar informational meetings and events around the world the past several months. We are committed to providing flight attendants, pilots and our airline customers the information they need so we can re-earn their trust and that of the traveling public that counts on them.”