Southwest Grounds Hundreds of Flights as It Races to Fix Widespread Mechanical Issues

Feb 20, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Southwest’s state of “operational emergency” was apparent Tuesday when more than 40 of its planes were out of commission  — more than double the average for a typical day, according to CNN.

According to FlightAware records for Tuesday, 186 Southwest flights were canceled, which is 4% of its operations, while another 730 were delayed.

While some of those irregular operations may have been affected by weather from winter storm Petra, Southwest’s issues were exacerbated by the shortage of serviceable aircraft among its 700-odd fleet of Boeing 737s. 

Since the airline operates on a point-to-point model as opposed to the hub-and-spoke model of larger carriers such as United and Delta, the plane shortage led to a domino effect of flight delays, cancellations and other disruptions throughout the nation.

The airline has canceled hundreds of flights since the beginning of February due to a number of unrelated mechanical issues with its fleet. As first reported by CNN, the various issues have proven to be overwhelming despite the airline’s mechanics working “all hands on-deck.”

The family-friendly carrier has been besieged with a series of complex issues in recent months.

First, there was last year’s freak accident engine explosion, which resulted in a window blowout and the tragic death of a passenger. The airline’s first-ever inflight death in half a century led to a series of investigations into Southwest’s maintenance processes, which led to an “abnormally high number” of planes being taken out of service for inspection.

Meanwhile, the airline has been talking about launching flights to Hawaii for two years now, but has been delayed due to the government shutdown in addition to the overall process of acquiring the requisite permitting, ETOPS certification and safety-checking its 737s for airworthiness over such a significant distance, especially over open water.

The government shutdown also cost the airline six times more revenue than anticipated.

And just this week alone, Southwest has had to field two other big PR hits. The Wall Street Journal reported that the FAA is auditing Southwest for a number of significant weight discrepancies between its reported checked bag weights and its planes’ actual takeoff weight, as calculated by the pilots. 

And just this week, Goldman Sachs demoted Southwest’s valuation over a number of factors, including an expected short-term dip in profits when the Hawaii routes launch.

The headline of this story has been edited to clarify that Southwest grounded hundreds of flights, not hundreds of planes. 

Featured image by Marco Garcia for The Points Guy

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.