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Southwest Airlines Adds New Maintenance Facility at Houston Airport

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Southwest Airlines announced Wednesday it has opened a new maintenance facility at William P. Hobby International Airport in Houston.

The new maintenance complex measures 240,000 square feet and includes offices, training facilities, warehouse space and a 140,000-square-foot hangar. The building will be where nearly 400 Houston-based technical operations employees work.

Technicians will be able to work simultaneously on up to six 737 aircraft indoors, and the facility has space for an additional eight aircraft outside the hangar bays. In addition, Southwest is currently investing in aircraft maintenance facilities in Baltimore, Denver, Phoenix and more.

“This state-of-the-art hangar will support our technical operations team’s unwavering commitment to safety and maintaining our fleet to the highest standards,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said in a statement.

“I’m very proud of our hundreds of technical operations employees in Houston for the work they do every day to support our growing operation from Houston’s Hobby Airport, which includes almost 200 departures per day during peak seasons to nearly 70 destinations across the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean,” Kelly continued.

The news of Southwest’s commitment to Houston comes days after CEO Gary Kelly definitively swept aside speculation the airline was adding a basic economy fare during a weekly address to employees.

“I’m on the record many times saying that Southwest—at least as long as I’m around—will never do basic economy, so I’m on the record with that,” Kelly said.

Southwest also revealed in December it would be removing the grounded Boeing 737 MAX planes from its flight schedule through April 13.

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Airlines Scaling Back On Some In-Flight Services Due to Coronavirus

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A few airlines, including those already affected by the coronavirus outbreak, have begun scaling back on some in-flight services as a way to help fight the virus.

The Points Guy writes that Singapore Airlines – obviously based in Asia, where the coronavirus has been most dangerous after originating in China – recently sent its frequent fliers an email about such changes.

Singapore advised its customers that some in-flight amenities will be discontinued, such as hot towel service, after-takeoff drink service, removal of reading materials from seat-back pockets, and suspension of in-flight sales.

Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research, said that Chinese and Taiwanese carriers have taken similar precautionary steps based on government guidance, including removing pillows and blankets on some flights.

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“They’re changing their cabin service procedures, so the passengers will notice this,” Harteveldt told The Points Guy.

But Harteveldt also remained optimistic that passengers wouldn’t pitch a fit given the circumstances.

“Passengers will accept (the reduction in services) because they’re being done in the interest of health and wellness,” he said.

As the virus, now known as covid-19, continues to expand globally, it remains to be seen if other airlines – including those based in the U.S. who offer international travel – adopt the same practice.

The aviation industry is quite often a copycat business, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see some similar changes put into place.

“As adults, we have to be logical and rational when we experience these inconveniences,” Harteveldt told The Points Guy. “This isn’t cost-cutting, this isn’t random, this is in the best interest of public health.”

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