DALLAS - The CEOs of Southwest Airlines and American Airlines say they still have confidence in Boeing.
The airline executives said Friday the hole that ripped open on a 737 operated by Southwest last week won’t stop them from buying more Boeing planes.
Both airlines are big Boeing customers – Southwest operates an all-Boeing fleet – and both are in the midst of modernizing their fleets with new planes.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said that Boeing pitched in immediately to help plan inspections and repairs of its older planes.
Kelly’s remarks came days after a senior Boeing engineer took Southwest off the hook of responsibility for the hole in the plane, dismissing speculation that Southwest’s heavy flight schedule might have caused the plane to age faster than expected.
“Boeing has been there for Southwest Airlines,” Kelly said. “They reacted very quickly to our event.”
He declined to say whether Boeing would help pay for additional inspections, and possible repairs, required under a new federal order following last week’s incident.
For its part, American has been waiting for years for the new Boeing 787 jet, which is now three years behind schedule.
Gerard Arpey, the CEO of American Airlines parent AMR Corp., said he is not happy with the wait, but said such delays aren’t unusual with new aircraft.
But, Arpey added, Boeing Co. has been “a terrific partner to our company as well,” and he predicted that the 787 will be a remarkable plane.
Both CEOs spoke at a conference of business journalists.
The Southwest Airlines jetliner whose roof ripped open over Arizona last week is one of hundreds of older-model Boeing 737s around the world.
The jets have a wide range of owners: carriers in Indonesia, Russia, Norway, China and beyond.
The planes will be subjected to repeated examinations as the problem revealed by the fuselage crack on the Southwest flight resonates through the world’s 737 fleet for years to come.
Southwest and Continental Airlines have the most planes on the list of 737-300s, 737-400s and 737-500s prone to the fuselage ruptures, but a large number of the planes are owned by overseas carriers.
Southwest finished inspecting all of its affected planes by Tuesday. They found five that had cracks in the same lap joint that tore open during last week’s flight, and were working with Boeing to make repairs. Alaska Airlines is going a step beyond a Federal Aviation Administration directive this week that ordered inspections when the planes reach a 30,000 takeoffs and landings; the airline will inspect all its planes in the coming weeks.
Continental and Alaska Airlines are inspecting airplanes that are years from the new FAA threshold as an extra precaution, the companies said.
Continental, merged with United Airlines, has 32 of the 737s in question, none with more than 30,000 cycles that would make them subject to the immediate inspection order.