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A message from our CEO, Gary Kelly

I want to provide you a quick update on the Boeing MAX airplane. This was the aircraft type that was involved in the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident that occurred on March 10. Any time there is a loss of life it is tragic, and our hearts go out to all those affected. The accident is under investigation, but very little is known days later about the cause, and that is a concern. Whether the cause is linked to the earlier Lion Air accident remains a key, unanswered question.

Since Sunday, we have been continually working with the FAA, Boeing, and others within the U.S. government. I have been in contact daily. Effective March 13th, the FAA issued its order to ground the MAX, with our knowledge and support. Boeing agrees as well. We have removed the 34 MAX aircraft from service; they will remain out of service until the FAA rescinds this order. With more than 750 aircraft in our fleet, more than 95 percent of our aircraft are unaffected by this order.

Safety is our top priority. It always has been. It always must be. Our commitment to the Safety of our Employees and our Customers is unwavering and uncompromising. U.S. airlines operate within the most advanced, regulated aviation system in the world. The FAA provides independent oversight that governs the planes we fly and how we fly them. Every detail about the systems used to operate the aircraft are designed, engineered, manufactured, and operated according to that independent oversight.

Boeing has a rich, storied history of success in aerospace, and they are a talented and major part of this advanced aviation system. Southwest® has a long history with the 737 and a stellar safety record. In 48 years, it’s the only aircraft we’ve flown. We’ve been part of the Boeing 737 story as it’s developed over time. The MAX is the latest version—rather than an all-new aircraft.

Our experience with the MAX, along with the other U.S. operators, has been phenomenal. We’ve operated over 40,000 flights covering almost 90,000 hours. There is a ton of data collected, which we continuously monitor. In all of our analysis since our first flight in 2017, nothing has presented any flight safety concerns. It has been a superb addition to our fleet. It is also important to add that all Pilots at Southwest are deeply experienced and highly trained, as they are at our other U.S. counterparts that fly the MAX. Our Mechanics are also highly experienced and trained to safely maintain every airplane in our fleet.

Based on all the extensive data that we, our U.S. counterparts, and the FAA have access to, there is no reason to question the safety of our MAX airplanes. That makes sense because that’s the way our aerospace and aviation system is designed to work. History proves—air travel is extraordinarily safe.

Which takes us to the question of, what happened with Ethiopian Flight 302? We don’t know. We aren’t learning fast enough. So, we have a temporary grounding.

I realize this disruption will inconvenience our Customers during this busy spring travel season, and we will do everything in our power to mitigate the impact to our operation. For that, I offer my sincere apologies. To support our Customers, we are offering flexible rebooking policies for any Customer booked on a canceled flight.

Nothing is more sacred to all of our Southwest Family Members than the trust our Customers place in our airline every day, on every flight. You have our commitment to minimize the disruptions to our Customers’ travel plans, while adhering to the FAA’s requirements and ensuring the Safety of our fleet.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. We will provide frequent updates to you as this story develops.

Until further notice, you will not be traveling on a 737 MAX 8. Our goal is to operate our schedule with every available aircraft in our fleet to meet our Customers’ expectations during the busy spring travel season.

Due to high call volumes and extended hold times, we strongly encourage Customers to check their flight status at Southwest.com.

For more information, see the 737 MAX 8 Travel Advisory.