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Southwest Airlines plans full operations Tuesday; 3 planes grounded for cracks

Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger

Southwest Airlines said it has completed safety inspections of most of its Boeing 737s and will be "able to launch a full operation on Tuesday," according to a news release by the airline.

The airline has been inspecting the 737-300s in its fleet for safety flaws after a large hole popped open Friday in the roof of one of its planes and prompted an emergency landing. The airline's statement late Monday said 64 of the 79 planes scheduled for inspection were checked and back in service. However three planes found to have subsurface cracks will remain grounded until they have been repaired.

The Federal Aviation Authority plans to issue a safety order Tuesday for older types of 737s that would require the use of electromagnetic technology in checking for metal fatigue in the fuselage areas, the Associated Press reported. Southwest's statement said its inspections have complied with the FAA's coming emergency directive.

Hundreds of flights have been canceled since Friday, including 70 on Monday as inspections of Southwest planes continued. Spokeswoman Christi McNeil advised passengers to contact the airline online or by phone to check on the status of their flights. Passengers have the option of rebooking their flights online or by phone for free; those whose flights were canceled can request a refund for the unused portion of their trip. 

McNeil said Southwest has accommodated stranded passengers on subsequent flights, but some media reports say some passengers are facing multi-day delays and that they haven't been offered a hotel room or a seat on another airline.

Southwest reported another incident Sunday night when a plane en route to San Diego made an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) after passengers reported a burning electrical smell inside the plane.

"That emergency landing was completely separate," said McNeill, who blamed the odor on an overheated gasper fan. The plane was fixed and put back in service, she said.

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