Southwest Airlines canceled dozens of flights Sunday so the company can inspect engine fan blades, and more cancellations are expected this week.
The inspections were ordered after the mid-air incident last Tuesday, April 17, when an engine exploded on Flight 1380. The explosion damaged sections of the wing and fuselage where a passenger, 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan, was partially blown out of a window and later died.
Federal investigators are looking to see whether a broken fan blade on the engine was to blame for that event.
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Southwest said in a news release that this move to cancel flights on Sunday comes as a part of their accelerated engine fan blade inspection program, announced on Tuesday night — not the emergency directive issued by the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday. The directive requires operators to inspect fan blades on certain engines within 20 days, according to the FAA's website.
The total number of flights canceled by the airline as of Sunday afternoon was 48, according to the tracking website FlightAware.
The Dallas-based airline said they minimized impact to flights last week by re-routing aircraft and using spare aircraft when available. Additionally, they said they've conducted inspections overnight.
"I'm glad they're getting the planes inspected," said passenger April Pollreisz. "Hopefully, that will tighten up more where they'll keep those types of inspections going and current.'
Sunday morning, Southwest cancelled Pollreisz's original flight from Amarillo to Dallas. Pollreisz said employees told passengers the cancellation is due to engine inspections. Staff re-booked her for another flight later the same day.
"I would rather be safe and get to my destination then for them to leave planes that should be inspected out," said Pollreisz. "I was OK with it."
As of Sunday afternoon, Southwest canceled more than a dozen flights to and from Dallas Love Field, according to FlightAware. As of early Monday morning, the website listed 21 Dallas Love Field flights canceled for Monday.
Southwest Airlines said it doesn't have exact operating details to confirm for the days ahead. FlightAware showed some cancellations expected on Monday and Tuesday. Southwest Airlines asks passengers to confirm flight status with the airline.