The United States Federal Aviation Administration is investigating how Southwest Airlines tracks the weight of checked bags on its flights.
The investigation by the FAA was first started in February 2018.
“Since that time, the FAA has directed the development of a comprehensive solution to the methods and processes used by Southwest Airlines to determine this performance data,” the FAA said.
When the story was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, FAA officials and agency documents were cited that indicated airline employees made mistakes that resulted in pilots miscomputing plane weights at takeoff.
Occasionally causing the reported takeoff weights to be 1,000 pounds lower than the plane’s actual weight, the errors were described as “systemic and significant.”
As stated in the FAA’s weight & balance handbook, excess weight on an aircraft can cause numerous problems. Those problems include the need for a higher takeoff speed, reduced cruising speeds, decreased maneuverability and higher stress imposed on landing gear.
Southwest said there is an “ongoing effort to track and voluntarily report operational data to the FAA so that we can mitigate and eliminate any operational risks.”
The airline also stated that it has already put in place controls and procedures to address weight and balance issues.
“Southwest believes the controls and procedures we implemented throughout 2018 have enhanced our weight and balance program and resolved the issues that we originally reported to the FAA,” the airline added.
At this time, the FAA has not linked any accidents to the weight discrepancies. The FAA “will not close its investigation until it is satisfied that Southwest’s corrective actions are consistent and sustained.”
Meanwhile, Southwest is also currently facing an “operational emergency” as a result of a labor dispute with mechanics.
In a recent statement, Southwest said that the percentage of “out-of-service aircraft” with maintenance issues in its fleet had more than doubled in the past week.
“We are requiring all hands on deck to address maintenance items so that we may promptly return aircraft to service,” a spokesperson for Southwest said.