Southwest cuts flights, delays plan to expand Postponed delivery of Boeing 737s pushes changes into mid-1998

November 27, 1997|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,SUN STAFF

Southwest Airlines said yesterday that it will postpone expansion plans and cut flights during the first half of next year because Boeing Co., which halted production for more than a month this fall, will not be able to meet its scheduled delivery of 737-700s.

The Dallas-based carrier, which operates 50 daily flights at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, had been expected to add at least one new city next year, with industry observers betting on Manchester, N.H.

"Some things we had planned to do earlier in the year will probably be pushed back to mid-year," said Kristie Kerr, a spokeswoman for Southwest.

"We wrote the winter schedule with the new airplanes in mind and when those deliveries were delayed, we had to block out some flights," she said. "There are some flights that aren't available right now because we don't have the aircraft."

She said Southwest has added 15 Boeing 737-300s this year, and had expected four Boeing 737-700s before the end of 1997. Boeing, however, has told the company that it can now deliver only two of those.

In early October, Boeing -- caught off guard by a global surge in aircraft orders -- halted production of the 747, its largest jetliner, and the 737 because of a shortage of parts and skilled workers. It resumed 737 production on Nov. 13, and production of 747 jumbo jets resumed Tuesday.

But the shutdown meant the world's largest airplane maker will deliver about 335 jets this year, down from the 350 it had estimated.

The company has said it might be late spring before its assembly lines increase their pace.

Kerr said Southwest does not know whether its scheduled delivery of 21 Boeing aircraft next year would be delayed.

She declined to say how many flights would be cut in 1998, or where, but she said service would be affected primarily between cities where there are a number of flights during the day.

"We want to make sure that customers aren't locked out of a flight," she said.

From BWI, Southwest operates several daily flights to cities such as Providence, R.I., and Chicago. In the past year, the airline has inaugurated service between BWI and Kansas City, Mo., and Jackson, Miss., and has added flights to Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Chicago; Louisville, Ky.; Providence and Nashville, Tenn.

Pub Date: 11/27/97

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