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Southwest Airlines Grounds 130 Planes Due to Weight Discrepancies

By Lou Whiteman – Updated Sep 17, 2020 at 10:26AM

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The airline has had repeated issues with its weight tracking systems.

Southwest Airlines (LUV -2.12%) said late Wednesday that it has temporarily grounded 130 aircraft "out of an abundance of caution" after it discovered discrepancies in aircraft weight data.

The airline said it was removing the 130 Boeing 737-800 aircraft to provide time to correct the weights of the planes in its systems. Airlines are required to calculate the weight of each plane before takeoff, and use that data to determine the takeoff speed and for midflight operations.

A Southwest airplane in flight.

Image source: Southwest Airlines.

Southwest has dealt with weight discrepancies in the past. In January, the airline was hit with a $3.92 million civil penalty by the Federal Aviation Administration for operating thousands of flights with inaccurate weight estimates. Southwest blamed a transfer of weight information from one computer system to another for the problem.

As part of the penalty, the FAA said it would continue to monitor Southwest's weight reporting, but it is unclear whether this latest action is part of that broader effort.

This is a relatively good time for an airline to have to ground a portion of its fleet. The industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and all carriers are currently operating limited schedules.

Southwest said the grounding would likely cause some delays or flight cancellations, but said, "We anticipate the impact to our operation to be minimal."

Lou Whiteman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Southwest Airlines. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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