Worst week ever for Southwest

Southwest Airlines, beloved of Wall Street and frugal flyers, is in a fight for its fame and southwest-winglet-over-mdw.jpgthe public trust. In the course of six days, it found itself facing a record FAA safety fine of $10.2 million, a probe by the FAA, by a congressional committee, by a federal whistleblower-protection agency and by its own internal watchdog. And it found that some 40 of its Boeing 737 classics needed inspections beyond those it already inspected, albeit after a deadline set by the FAA. Its shares fell the most they have dropped since 2002, while its chief executive officer, Gary Kelly, flew to Washington to brief acting FAA Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell on actions the Dallas-based company is taking to ensure its compliance with FAA directives. When the FAA said last week that Southwest made 1,451 flights with the uninspected aircraft after disclosing the lapse in 2007, the carrier put three employees on leave and hired an outside investigator to look into its procedures, starting the six days of hell.
Read on to hear some talking heads talking sense about this week.For an airline as widely admired as Southwest, the crisis presents a profound challenge. It has seen its margins erode as its fuel hedges slowly unwind, pushing up costs, while competition limits its power to raise fares. Now, the airline with so-called ‘customer-evangelists,’ boosters who spread the good word about the company, may be in a battle for their loyalty. This is surely one of the major aviation stories of the day, eclipsing any possible merger or acquisition in the states. Left Field discusses this with Flightglobal’s worldly globetrotter, Kieran Daly, who has some interesting thoughts on mergers, acquisitions and aircraft.You can hear more Left Field here on podcasts and here on Chicago’s National Public Radio station.

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10 Responses to Worst week ever for Southwest

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