Southwest faces further criticism following an emergency landing


A Southwest Airlines Co. jetliner flying from Chicago to New Jersey was forced to touch down in Ohio after one of its windows cracked. The Boeing 737 aircraft carrier was safely landed at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, and all 76 passengers on board were able to quickly catch another flight to Newark, NewJersey.

The biggest controversy surrounding this incident is that on April 17, just two weeks prior to the incident, another Southwest Boeing 737 plane faced engine failure en route to Dallas from New York, having to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

The fan blade in one of the engines broke during that flight and flew through the cabin window nearest to the engine. Jennifer Riordan, a passenger sitting next to the cracked window, was tragically killed.

After two similar incidents, Southwest will now fall under scrutiny about how well its engines and windows are maintained and how frequently they are inspected. The Federal Aviation Administration will be looking into the incident to see what exactly caused the damage to the aircraft, which is currently out of service.

The windows of aircrafts are designed specifically to support the pressure faced by the plane cabin when the planes are thousands of feet in the air.

According to The New York Times, “Airplane windows typically have multiple acrylic layers. To deal with the rigors of flight, their curve follows the shape of the fuselage, and their rounded edges make them less susceptible to stress-induced damage.”

The 737 plane’s outer window layer had to keep in the air pressure on the daily, and it was this layer’s pane that ended up breaking and causing the second plane to divert and land in Cleveland.

According to the FAA, these cracks do not happen often. In the nearly 51 years that the 737 has been flying, there were 26 problems involving the outer window pane and one fatality — the incident in April.

Additionally, the passengers who were affected by the plane landing off its route described that the Southwest crew members were helpful in calming down frantic passengers, getting them safely to the ground and efficiently putting them on another flight.

Still, because of these incidents happening in succession, Southwest should do its best to reassure wary passengers that all of its 700-plus planes are up to par and pass frequent inspections.

Flight ticket sales have already been on a decline since the fatal engine failure.

“Airline executives estimated the carrier has lost between $50 million and $100 million in ticket sales due to publicity from the accident and the company’s decision to pull all marketing and advertising after it happened,” an article from USA Today reported several days after the incident occurred.

A Los Angeles Times article stated that the day of the second incident, the shares of Southwest fell 1.4 percent, with revenue per mile expected to drop anywhere between 1 and 3 percent between April and June.

The U.S. airline also had to scale back its marketing and advertising following the incidents, because most of its current ads were cheerful and lighthearted — a sad irony in the wake of what happened.

Southwest must now continue to do damage control in order to restore its reputation in passengers’ eyes. The 737 was last inspected in April, but now experts will use microscopic technology to see exactly what caused the window pane to crack. It is commendable that the airline is canceling numerous flights just to inspect its plane’s engine blades and windows.

If the crew members can keep maintaining their level of professionalism on every flight, then they can win back the trust of their customer base, especially passengers in California, where the airline dominates as the most popular aircraft carrier.