Southwest Gets OK To Continue Flying 128 Planes That Missed Inspections

Yesterday afternoon, Southwest Airlines had to cancel dozens of flights after learning that one-fifth of its entire fleet was overdue for a necessary maintenance check. The airline was to have grounded 128 planes pending inspection, but has reached a deal with the Federal Aviation Administration that will allow those jets to continue flying.

The airline notified the FAA on Tuesday that the planes had missed a required maintenance check on their standby hydraulic systems, and voluntarily moved to ground the Boeing 737-700 jets.

Southwest then conferred with Boeing and the FAA to work out a plan, announced in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, that allows these planes to keep flying for up to five days while the inspections are completed.

Tuesday’s halt resulted in about 80 Southwest flights being canceled and grounding all 128 planes for even a day or two would have wreaked havoc on one of the nation’s busiest carriers. Because of the FAA’s green light to continue flying, the airline hopes that there will be minimal impact over the next few days as it pushes through these overdue maintenance checks.

Southwest is already in the hotseat with the FAA regarding repairs. Last summer, the regulator said the airline could face upwards of $12 million in fines over years of allegedly improper repairs to its fleet. A few months later, the agency sued Southwest for failing to pay those fines.