Yay for Southwest

Sure am glad I booked my next Seattle-San Jose flight on Southwest. Many disturbing things from this story on a problem with an Alaska-Burbank flight. First, the obvious:

Alaska Airlines Flight 536 was 20 minutes out of Seattle and heading for Burbank, Calif., Monday afternoon when a thunderous blast rocked the plane.

Passengers gasped for air and grabbed their oxygen masks as the plane dropped from about 26,000 feet, passenger Jeremy Hermanns said by phone Tuesday.

Eek. Were passengers provided with discreet dry cleaning?

An investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said baggage handlers had bumped the plane’s fuselage with loading equipment and caused “a crease” in the side of the aircraft. The handlers are contract workers hired to replace unionized workers in May.

Oh, hey, that’s great. I guess those fears about how breaking the union would create safety issues were totally exaggerated.

Alaska saw an increase in ground-damage incidents at Sea-Tac after it replaced 472 unionized workers in May with workers from Menzies Aviation, based near London, the airline said. The switch contributed to a sharp increase in delayed departures from Sea-Tac.

So breaking the union actually caused late departures, which hurts the airline both directly and in annoyed travlers. And safety problems like this.

The real kicker, though, came right at the end:

Monday’s incident came as the Seattle-based carrier faces renewed questions about its quality-assurance procedures, almost six years after the crash of Alaska Flight 261.

In January 2000, the MD-83 plunged into the ocean off Southern California, killing all 88 passengers and crew.

Federal investigators concluded that the crash resulted from maintenance shortcomings — specifically the failure to lubricate a key part in the plane’s tail section called the jackscrew.

Now the FAA is examining Alaska’s repair practices after three incidents in the past year raised new questions about its procedures for lubricating the part, including Alaska’s oversight of work by outside contractors.

The incidents involved three planes undergoing overnight repairs at the time.

So five years ago, a problem with this one thing caused 88 people to die. The FAA issues revised guidelines for how to maintain and when to replace that part. Aaaand Alaska’s having problems doing it? Holy mackeral.

This kind of thing makes me regret flying Alaska all the time. Ugh.