Southwest bookings hit after first passenger fatality

The first passenger fatality in Southwest Airlines’ 51-year history is taking a toll on ticket sales.

Southwest on Monday said it expects a 3 percent decline in revenue from each seat flown a mile — a measure of airline pricing power — in the second quarter. The slide is at the higher end of estimates made by Southwest in April. The discount carrier attributed its softer sales largely to an engine explosion that killed a female customer earlier that month.

Southwest Flight 1380 from New York to Dallas made an emergency landing on April 17 after an engine exploded in-flight, resulting in the first passenger fatality on a major U.S. carrier since 2009. 

At about 32,000 feet the plane’s left engine exploded, sending shrapnel through one of the plane’s windows. Jennifer Riordan, a married mother of two, died after engine parts shattered one of the plane’s windows. There were 149 people aboard. Passengers called the pilot, Captain Tammie Jo Shults, a hero for calmly guiding the plane to safety. 

Southwest scaled back its marketing efforts after the fatal accident that also injured seven others, resuming its normal advertising efforts in mid-May.

The carrier recently introduced deals offering inexpensive domestic flights during the summer, with the discounted offerings coming after other incidents including one of its planes on May 12. Earlier in the month a flight headed to Newark landed in Cleveland instead due to a cracked window.

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