American Airlines flight attendants have drawn a line in the sand.

And the message was clear — they will not die for a company more interested in profits than in safety.

The powerful labour force has sent a letter to Boeing, warning the airplane manufacturer that it would refuse to board a plane en masse — 28,000 members strong — if they feel a plane is unsafe.

The letter was sent from the union representing the flight attendants. The impetus is the ongoing issues with Boeing’s 737 MAX plane, which has been grounded since March after two separate fatal crashes killed 346 passengers and crew, Rich Thomaselli of Travel Pulse reported.

“The stakes could not be higher. Our lives are not for sale,” Lori Bassani, the president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, wrote in a letter to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg.

Muilenburg was in front of Congress earlier this week and testified that the 737 production line was working at a “high rate” at the time of the first crash in October 2018, the report said.

Worse, Muilenburg admitted that Boeing continued manufacturing the aircraft even after workers made their safety concerns aware.

“The 28,000 flight attendants working for American Airlines refuse to walk onto a plane that may not be safe and are calling for the highest possible safety standards to avoid another tragedy,” Bassani wrote, noting that Muilenburg’s testimony made clear “there were serious breakdowns in the supervision of the 737 MAX. … I know after two days of very tough hearings you understand the deep concerns that remain regarding the relaunch of the 737 MAX.”

Boeing announced last month it expects to return the embattled plane to service on Jan. 16, but previous dates to get back in the air have come and gone as the company continues to seek Federal Aviation Administration re-certification, the report said.

“Mr. Muilenburg, if you had an ounce of integrity, you would know that the right thing to do is to step down …” Credit: USA Today.

Meanwhile, the Globe & Mail reported today the Boeing 737 MAX is likely to return to service in Europe during the first quarter of 2020, the head of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said on Monday.

While the European regulator expects to give its approval in January, preparations by national authorities and airlines may delay the resumption of commercial flights by up to another two months, EASA executive director Patrick Ky indicated, the Globe & Mail reported.

“If there are training requirements (and) co-ordination to be done with the EU member states to make sure everyone does the same thing at the same time, this will take a bit of time,” Ky said. “That’s why I’m saying the first quarter of 2020.”

Low-cost operator Ryanair, one of Boeing’s biggest clients, also said on Monday it expected further delays to MAX deliveries to impact its growth in 2020.

As the Ireland-headquartered reported profit of 1.15 billion euros (US$1.28 billion) for the half-year to September, in line with the same period of 2018, CEO Michael O’Leary said the airline now expects to receive its first MAX planes in March 2020, CTV news reported.

O’Leary said Monday that “we have reduced our expectation of 30 MAX aircraft being delivered to us in advance of peak summer 2020 down to 20 aircraft and there is a real risk of none.”

Europe’s busiest airline has said it would cut flights and close some bases because of delays to deliveries of the plane.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill pressed Boeing’s CEO on why he hasn’t given up his pay after two fatal crashes of its 737 MAX planes that killed 346 people, CNBC reported.

The embattled exec, whose compensation topped US$23 million in 2018, the year of the first crash, largely ducked the question, saying that is up to the company’s board. Others lawmakers called for a more drastic measure, CNBC reported.

“Mr. Muilenburg, if you had an ounce of integrity, you would know that the right thing to do is to step down,” Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla.,said Wednesday at the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing.

“You are the captain of this ship. A culture of negligence, incompetence or corruption starts at the top and it starts with you” Rep. Jesus Garcia, D-Ill., said while questioning Muilenburg whether employees were pressured to cut corners to get the plane to market, accusations the executive denied. “I think it’s time that you submitted your resignation, don’t you?”