Southwest is in a bit of hot water today, as it has failed to meet the deadline set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to replace unapproved parts on 82 aircraft. Southwest has repaired 33 of those planes, and asked for an extension from the FAA. The airline will find out today if that extension has been granted, or if the FAA will ground the unrepaired planes.
According to the Dallas Business Journal, the situation arose when an inspector realized Southwest had used unauthorized flaps on some of its planes. The parts posed no safety risk but needed to be replaced anyway, and the FAA gave the airline 10 days to do so. Southwest canceled its contract with the vendor that supplied those parts.
Would the FAA actually ground 50-plus aircraft? It's an interesting question, namely because grounding Southwest's aircraft would send a strong message to the industry that lapses of this sort won't be tolerated. But at the same time, grounding 10 percent of Southwest's fleet would cause massive service disruptions and indirectly punish thousands of travelers, which doesn't seem fair. But is avoiding service delays worth creating a precedent where airlines get away with things like this?
We'll find out later today.