Southwest Airlines jet skids off runway, plus merger approved with AirTran

Southwest Airlines has been in the news in recent days for a couple of incidents, and successfully winning government approval to proceed with the AirTran Airways merger.

Yesterday, Flight 1919 from Denver skidded off runway 13C after landing during a rainstorm at Chicago’s Midway Airport. None of the 134 passengers or five crew members were injured. It’s nice to see they disembarked using jet stairs according to the picture in the linked article. The cost to replace each escape slide, had they been used, can reach into the upper thousands of dollars according to various sources.

Image courtesy AirTran Airways

Also yesterday, the U.S. Justice Department cleared Southwest’s acquisition of AirTran Airways. There are several routes where Southwest and AirTran overlap in nonstop service, but I would expect scheduling adjustments and service reductions to occur in those markets, depending on demand. Many of them originate from AirTran’s home base in Orlando and include nonstops to New York-LaGuardia, Minneapolis, Chicago-Midway, Kansas City, Detroit, Boston, and many more. Both carriers do also have a presence in long-haul transcon routes, such as Los Angeles & San Francisco to Baltimore. In the end this merger was about Southwest’s biggest “hole” in their network, namely Atlanta, where they will now enjoy an extensive route structure courtesy of AirTran.

Finally, NTSB inspections of the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 that decompressed due to a rupture in the fuselage over Arizona earlier this month are pointing to errors in the manufacturing process at Boeing. The results are preliminary and no final determination has been made, but it appears the rivet holes holding overlapping sections of the fuselage together were too wide. Inspections of about 190 737s made around the same time as the Southwest jet are continuing with about 75% completed to date.

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