May 11, 2018 | Kendall Creighton The world is waiting to hear from Southwest Airlines: How many engines have been inspected for defective fan blades? How many fan blades have been found to be defective? What percentage of the SWA fleet remains to be inspected? Some in the industry are saying stop with the negative labeling of Southwest. The airline doesn’t make engines or windows. They’re not responsible for failures and cracks . FlyersRights.org has it all wrong! Remember, though, that the fatal malfunction last month was the second time a fan blade broke off from a Southwest engine. The first, in 2016, ended with a safe emergency landing in Pensacola, Fla. (Window cracks that caused diversions for Southwest and JetBlue the first week of May were not related to engine issues.) Soon after the Pensacola failure, the FAA drafted a maintenance directive. But Southwest was one of several carriers that called for revamping the proposal, telling the FAA that it wanted more than the one-year timeline the engine-makers suggested to complete the inspections. In formal comments filed with the agency, Southwest said it would need 18 months to inspect the 732 engines that would be subject to an order. The FAA was complicit, allowing Southwest to drag its feet despite the engine-maker’s recommendation of a faster inspection regimen. How many other 737s have had this issue? Of all the 737 operators, it’s only Southwest that’s had this happen. Per the FAA’s FAR inspection requirements , the owner-operator is required to maintain the aircraft. Not the engine manufacturer nor the airframe manufacturer. But the investigation is not complete. We shall see what the final report says. The Chipping Away at Passenger Amenities Many companies think a good way to make money is reducing the product. Like at the grocery store, companies love to shrink the size of products while keeping the price the same. For airlines, boosting profits has meant subtracting things from passengers and pretending they won’t notice. Or, if they do, requiring passengers to pay for them. Last Wednesday we learned that United Airlines is downgrading meals to “snacks.” United’s websitesays it’s eliminating full meals on flights under four hours outside of dinner time. The blog View from the Wing points out that when United was looking for billions of dollars in cost savings, ironically called “Project Quality,” one of the places they went after was meal service. They even cut garlic bread and ketchup. However, they broadened their meal service windows in February 2015, offering meals on more flights than their competitors. Still, United’s latest penny-pinching is outside the norm of airlines because it’s reducing meals offered to its more valued, elite passengers. Frequent-flyers aren’t too happy , as it appears United has decided to only serve full meals to their higher-class travelers on flights departing between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and only on flights lasting 4 hours or more, instead of 3 hours. A United spokesperson told View from The Wing: “We are offering customers a more simplified meal service on flights under four hours. With all of our food offerings, we monitor customer feedback and what they would prefer and adjust accordingly.” Yes, the airline said this is based on “customer feedback”!