Southwest, the country's largest low-cost airline – and the most popular carrier in America, is just last year – best known for its policy of free checked baggage registration, friendly staff and flights cheap and no frills. But in recent weeks, the airline has made the headlines for reasons more troubling, raising concerns about the reliability and safety of its flights.
In an internal memo given to mechanics last week, Southwest said to be at the heart of an "operational emergency" resulting from an unusually high number of out of service aircraft. The note, reported for the first time by the Chicago Business Journal, warned that any mechanic who "alleges an illness" to avoid work should provide a note to the doctor or risk losing his job.
The high rate of out-of-service jets caused 100 flight cancellations and more than 1,000 delays on Friday, February 15, according to the FlightAware website. The question seems to have been at least partially resolved since – 39 cancellations were announced Sunday, according to CNBC, and only 19 Tuesday, by FlightAware.
"To take care of our customers, we need all the on-deck attendants to solve the maintenance issues so we can get the aircraft back into service quickly," CNBC said in a statement to Southwest. (The airline did not respond to Vox's request for comment.) "At the same time, our operational planners have been working in the background to minimize the impact on our customers." The airline also said at CNBC that there was no common theme. among the aircraft out of service.
But the operational emergency is perhaps the least of Southwest's problems. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency that oversees and regulates airline safety standards, had been investigating Southwest since February 2018. The investigators reportedly found "systematic and significant errors "concerning calculations of the weight of luggage loaded on flights, which, he says, could pose security problems during takeoff.
According to the FAA, Southwest regularly underestimates the total weight of baggage carried by its aircraft. Since pilots must gain weight – not just the total weight in the aircraft, but also the distribution of that weight – when calculating the take-off speed and thrust, the gap between the number of baggage in the plane and the number of baggage pilots thought The presence of the aircraft in the aircraft could lead to serious problems, including an engine failure. According to the report, the most significant risks could arise in emergency situations, as pilots' misunderstanding of weight distribution could potentially exacerbate engine-related emergencies.
FAA officials told the Journal that at some points in the survey, at least 33 percent of Southwest's more than 4,000 daily flights could have been operating with inaccurate weight data, a statistic revealed by company statistics. low cost airlines.
The paper notes that there have been no accidents in the Southwest related to these weight differences and that engine failures in flight are remarkably rare. That said, the memory of an incident in 2018 that resulted in the death of a passenger may still be present in the mind of the airline – and its potential customers -.
In April 2018, a flight from New York to Dallas had to land in emergency in Philadelphia after the explosion of the engine of the plane. Engine debris struck and broke one of the windows of the aircraft, causing a passenger to almost be pulled out of the plane. Two other passengers on board were able to bring the woman, Jennifer Riordan, back into the plane and perform CPR on her, but Riordan did not survive. And in 2016, the engine of a southwest plane coming from New Orleans to Orlando, Florida, exploded, forcing the plane to land in Pensacola. No passengers were injured.
It is unclear what effect, if any, these high-profile incidents will have on Southwest's reputation. The only thing that is clear is that the favorite cheap airline of the United States has recently faced many scandals.