"We could see the ceiling tile that had basically been sucked into the fuselage area, and we saw some wires and things that would run from the front to back of the plane and then it got very foggy, similar to what you'd see with dry ice," passenger Erin O'Donovan said. "And then, at the same time, the plane was lowering, so you could definitely feel us going down to a lower altitude level."
Hall and O'Donovan were among the 131 people on board when the plane landed safely. No one was injured during the scare.
In 1988, an Aloha Airlines 737 peeled apart at 24,000 feet. One flight attendant died, and another eight people were injured in the incident. That was when the FAA realized that older planes could suffer metal fatigue and needed frequent inspections.
Just last year, Southwest was slapped with a hefty $10.2 million fine, later reduced to $7.5 million, when it was discovered that the airline had failed to inspect 46 of its Boeing 737s as required.
The mandatory inspections were designed to uncover any cracks in the body of a plane. When the airline finally did inspect the planes, it found cracks in six of them.