Inspections Continue to Delay Southwest Flights

By Artie Ojeda and Michael Gelkhen
|  Monday, Apr 4, 2011  |  Updated 9:20 PM PDT
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Inspections Continue to Delay Southwest Flights

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Inspections Continue to Delay Southwest Flights

Travelers react to flight delays at Lindbergh Field.
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On Monday the lines were certainly longer at the Southwest Airlines counter.

Over the weekend, Southwest grounded 79 planes for emergency inspections and canceled hundreds of flights. The airline canceled about 70 flights on Monday, which is causing nationwide problems, including here in San Diego.

No flights out of San Diego were cancelled Monday, though there have been a handful of delays, which has led to a little bit of frustration.   

“I get here and it looks like Christmas. Oh my god, look at all these people, so yeah, I'm pretty disappointed because I had some things scheduled in Las Vegas that I'm going to miss, not too happy about that,” said passenger Leslie Hilliard.

There were anywhere from five to ten flight delays at any given hour on Monday at Lindbergh Field.

A representative from Southwest Airlines in Dallas said via e-mail, the airline is working through the delays and cancellations.

He said the airline is working "to get our fleet fully-inspected, back in the air and, in the mean time, give the best possible customer service as we strive for the safest operation. The latest on our service disruptions (which are becoming less and less prevalent by the hour) are available at swamedia.com."

A local Southwest Airlines manager said passengers at Lindbergh Field, "have been great and we appreciate their patience."

“You know, flying is still one of the safest ways to go. I'm comfortable. They're doing their job. They're being safe, taking the precautions they need to take,” said passenger Ken Chettleborough.

Southwest has encouraged customers to check their flight's status or rebook their trip prior to heading to the airport.

It's all part of ongoing inspections stemming from the airline's Friday incident with a Boeing 737.

The airline canceled about 300 flights nationwide on Saturday and Sunday while it inspects 79 of its Boeing 737 aircraft.

On Friday, a 737-300 lost cabin pressure over Arizona skies after a hole opened up in the cabin roof at 34,500 feet.  Federal records show cracks were found and repaired to the same plane's frame a year ago.

The pilot made what's described as a "controlled descent" to 11,000 feet, an altitude where supplemental oxygen is not necessary.  It then landed safely at a military base in Yuma, Ariz., at about 4:30 p.m. Flight 812 had been on its way from Phoenix to Sacramento, Calif., when the incident occurred.

There were no serious injuries reported among the 118 people aboard. One passenger says she saw a flight attendant and another passenger pass out.

Federal investigators will try to determine what caused the hole. The FBI says it was a "mechanical failure," not an act of terror or foul play.

Southwest removed all of their 737s from its flight schedule so each one could be inspected. The company said the inspections would stretch over several days. Officials say they'll try to "minimize customer inconvenience."

A total of 288 Boeing 737-300s are currently operating in the U.S. fleet, and 931 operate worldwide, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

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