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Fleet Maintenance Problems May Stall Southwest’s Hawaiian Launch

Airline clears regulatory hurdle toward launch of Hawaiian service but also faces an “operational emergency” in maintaining its 737 fleet

Southwest Airlines has taken a big regulatory step towards launching service in Hawaii but also is facing a crisis in maintaining its fleet of 737 aircraft.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has cleared Southwest to begin demonstration flights between the mainland US and Hawaii. The initial flights were between Oakland and Honolulu, USA Today reports. The airline also plans to offer flights among the Hawaiian islands.

At the same time, however, Southwest is experiencing what the airline calls an “operational emergency,” with more than twice the normal number of aircraft out of service for maintenance problems. The shortage of jets forced the airline to cancel 100 flights on Friday and delay more than 1,000 others.

The problem prompted Southwest to call all of its mechanics to work in order to get more aircraft back in the air, according to CNBC. Southwest has been in contract negotiations with its mechanics union since 2012. No particular cause or pattern of maintenance problems was reported by the airline.