Airline executives say they still support Boeing

AP News
Posted: Apr 08, 2011 2:50 PM
Airline executives say they still support Boeing

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. The remarks of their CEOs had to be a boost at Boeing's Chicago headquarters and its Seattle-based commercial aircraft operations.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said that Boeing pitched in immediately to help plan inspections and repairs of its older planes.

Kelly's remarks came just 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 expected those 737 models to have almost twice as many takeoffs and landings as the Southwest plane before the potential cause of the hole _ metal fatigue _ became a problem.

"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. He said such contractual terms are confidential.

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, especially one as different as the 787, made of carbon-fiber composite instead of aluminum.

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.