By the Wall Street Journal
Annapolis, Md. – Southwest Airlines Co. said it has completed engine inspections across its fleet of more than 700 jets after a fatal accident on one of its flights last month.
Chief Executive Gary Kelly on Wednesday said Southwest has sent a small number of engine fan blades back to their maker for further tests and is working with manufacturers and regulators on the potential redesign of parts and inspection protocols.
The April 17 engine blowout on a flight from New York to Dallas sent debris from the engine cowling into parts of the jet’s wing and fuselage, breaking a window and killing passenger Jennifer Riordan. Afterward, Southwest canceled around 500 flights to perform the engine inspections across its fleet.
Mr. Kelly said at Southwest’s annual meeting that the airline remained in contact with Ms. Riordan’s family.
Mr. Kelly said that bookings were still down as the airline has pulled back on marketing in the wake of the accident. The carrier of the most US domestic passengers still expects revenue per available seat mile to decline between 1% and 3% in the second quarter. Southwest said one to two percentage points of that decline was attributable to the recent softness in bookings.
Before the accident, analysts had expected that unit-revenue measure to be flat to down 2% from a year earlier.
The airline’s stock has been the industry’s worst performer this year, falling around 20% as investors fret over plans to add capacity that could spark competition with other carriers to cut fares.
Southwest said it still expects to increase capacity by 5% this year compared with 2017 and plans to start selling tickets in 2018 for flights to Hawaii from the West Coast.
Mr. Kelly said much of its future growth will be international routes to Mexico and the Caribbean. All 50 additional destinations Southwest is considering lie outside the Lower 48 states.
Southwest is also interested in code sharing with other carriers that could link their international flights to its domestic routes departing from airports such as Baltimore and Las Vegas, Mr. Kelly said. He said the plans, which are at an early stage, would broaden the carrier’s appeal to corporate customers.