Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

                

As the summer rolls in, airline passengers are looking around for anything other than warnings about summer travel chaos and the continuining doubt about the currently grounded Boeing 737 MAX.

The airline most affected by the MAX problems is Southwest.

It's been canceling 150 flights a day, causing considerable inconvenience to generally loyal customers.

What good news could Southwest suddenly offer to lighten the mood?

Well, in news that may not have reached the majority of its travelers, the airline celebrated being a lot nicer to some of its employees.

Just a few months ago, Southwest was labeling its mechanics as the Second Coming of Evil Worms Infected by Malicious Employee Disease.

Well, that was my interpretation after the airline accused the mechanics of deliberately pulling planes out of service in order to perform perhaps unnecessary maintenance, thereby causing thousands of delays and cancellations.

Why, the airline even threatened to fire some of its mechancis.

It can't have been melodious for passengers to hear of such a malodorous relationship with those upon whom the airline relies to keep those passengers safe.

Yet last week, with precious little fanfare, the airline slipped out a simple announcement with a less than dramatic title: Southwest Airlines' Mechanics Approve New Contract.

And what a new contract.

This dispute had been going on for nigh on seven years. It had twice ended up in the courts. 

Perhaps, finally, Southwest realized that it truly needed some stability in a period of considerable turmoil.

The mechanics will get $160 million in back pay. They'll also get a 20 percent raise. 

For this they've ceded some leeway to the airline. A few more parts of the maintenance tasks will now be outsourced.

While the company offered the usual platitudes about securing the long-term future of the airline -- did it not matter so much over the previous seven years of rancor? -- the biggest beneficiaries will be passengers.

Sometimes, a business can have too many problems to deal with and it needs every employee committed to solving them.

An airline like Southwest relies on the extremely efficient use of aircraft, coupled with an air of people-friendliness and customer focus.

If the first part fails, the second part may suffer severely.

It's possible that issues with the MAX will begin to reach resolution by late summer. 

But the dispute with the mechanics could easily have escalated and had an even greater impact on service.

However much this agreement costs Southwest, such severe disruption would have cost it so much more.

Ask American Airlines. It's just sued its mechanics.

Published on: May 26, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.