Southwest Airlines Paid Furloughed Safety Inspector To Get New Jets In The Air During Shutdown

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The most recent government shutdown lasted for over a month — the longest in U.S. history — resulting in absolute chaos in the economy. Nearly a million federal employees were furloughed or forced to work without pay, and that included workers at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Nevertheless, one FAA employee who had been furloughed was able to be convinced to return to work for a couple of hours after Southwest Airlines Co. promised to foot the bill, according to Market Watch.

The airline was desperate to put another three jets in the air, but first required a safety inspector to sign off on the paperwork for them.

The employee only had to come in for three hours of paperwork but was still paid a sizable sum for the brief return to duty. He was paid $3,15o, showing just how important it was to the airline that those three jets get into the air.

“The FAA and Southwest entered into a reimbursable agreement to provide minimal time to complete aircraft certification services,” the agency spokesman said in an email.

“These services were completed only after meeting immediate operational safety needs.”

It wasn’t a simple agreement either though. Because of the shutdown, getting the employee to come in for less than half a day’s work involved both the FAA’s managers and lawyers sitting down with the administration of the airline.

Fortunately for Southwest, much of the admin had already been down before the impasse between Congress and President Donald Trump triggered the shutdown on December 22, leaving minimal work left for them to pay the furloughed employee for.

Not everyone is happy with this deal though. Union officials complained that they “weren’t consulted as required and that the arrangement appeared to represent favorable treatment for Southwest at the expense of competitors.”

Other airlines who tried to pull the same stunt were unsuccessful in convincing the FAA to budge.

Earlier in the month, before the shutdown ended, Southwest Airlines slammed the interruption to their operations. An estimate put their losses as a result of the shutdown between $10 million and $15 million for the month.

“I’ll sum it up in a word. It is maddening,” CEO Gary Kelly said during the Southwest’s quarterly earnings call.

Other airlines in the U.S. also estimated the dollar value of the losses they suffered during the shutdown. Delta put their estimate at around $25 million for the duration of the shutdown. United and American Airlines also announced they had worked out a number for their losses, but declined to share them publicly.