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Southwest Rethinks Plane Retirement Plan

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Southwest Airlines is reconsidering some of its operating plans in the wake of maintenance lapses, including the pace of retiring older aircraft and outsourcing maintenance overseas, a newspaper reported on Monday.

Southwest is pursuing major structural upgrades to dozens of its oldest Boeing 737 jets in an effort partly aimed at reducing long-term maintenance expenses, according to the Wall Street Journal.

US aviation regulators proposed a USD$10.2 million fine on March 6 alleging the carrier failed in 2006 and 2007 to inspect 46 Boeing 737s for cracks.

In a follow-up review of its maintenance records last week, Southwest grounded 38 737s in order to re-inspect them for fuselage cracks around windows, cancelling 4 percent of its flights for one day.

Small cracks were found on four planes, and all but two had returned to service by Friday according to Southwest. The remaining two were expected to fly again over last weekend.

(Reuters)