Southwest Restarts MRO Capital Project

Southwest has resumed its project to build a three-bay hangar at Baltimore Maryland Airport.
Credit: Southwest

With low-cost carriers widely tipped to be the airline segment that emerges strongest from the pandemic, maintenance operations around the leading players are gearing up again.

The most notable recent development is the resumption of Southwest Airlines’ project to build a three-bay hangar at Baltimore Maryland Airport.

Last week local planning authorities approved the $135 million facility, plans for which were initially unveiled in 2018, only to be put on ice due to the pandemic as Southwest slashed capital expenditure in 2020 and 2021 by roughly $5.5 billion.

Now, however, Southwest is clearly preparing for recovery. It has taken delivery of 12 new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on lease this year, while in the second quarter of 2021 the low cost carrier’s revenues were up almost four times on the prior-year period, albeit still about a third lower than before the pandemic.

The MRO facility, Southwest’s first in the U.S, Northeast, will be able to fit three 737s inside the hangar, eight more on the outside apron and will also include offices, workshop and inventory space.

“This would be another key maintenance facility for Southwest Airlines and enhances an established long-term and strategic relationship,” said Boyd Rutherford, chair of the Maryland board of public works.

Although the facility had originally been scheduled from completion this year, construction is now expected to begin in October.

Separately, Southwest has noted that its maintenance costs should rise through late 2021 as it brings more capacity online and incurs costs from bringing 737-700s out of storage.

Alex Derber

Alex Derber, a UK-based aviation journalist, is editor of the Engine Yearbook and a contributor to Aviation Week and Inside MRO.