Southwest Airlines (SWA) is pressing ahead with plans to build a new maintenance facility at Houston Hobby airport.
The new 240,000sq-ft hangar will have space for six Boeing 737 aircraft and will include aircraft wash facilities on the apron outside, taxiway connections, parking and loading docks, as well as offices and parts storage areas.
Work on the hangar should begin this spring to ready it for opening in late 2019.
Once the project is finished, SWA will have six maintenance facilities in the US, which should leave leave it less exposed to some of the mishaps that have resulted from outsourced MRO work in the past.
In 2015 it paid almost almost $3 million to settle an enforcement action in which the FAA had originally sought $12 million for shoddy skin installations performed by a third party.
New maintenance capacity is also needed to service a growing fleet.
The low-cost carrier has roughly 200 Boeing 737 Max 7 and Max 8 narrowbodies on order, although it recently deferred deliveries of 23 Max 7s from the 2019-2021 period to 2023 and 2024.
In December the airline indicated that it might use gains from proposed corporate tax cuts in the US to further invest in its fleet.
Most of its backlog is for the larger Max 8 model, to which 40 more units were added last week when SWA exercised options with Boeing.
SWA was the largest operator of the 737-700, but now appears to be following a global trend in the low-cost sector by opting for higher-capacity aircraft.
While the Max 8 has won more than 3,000 orders, Boeing only has firm commitments for 60 Max 7. In comparison, the 737-700 won more than 1,000 orders.