Southwest plane wing clips American plane's tail at LaGuardia Airport

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Passenger speaks from LaGuardia Airport airplane clipping on taxiway
Michelle Charlesworth talks with a passenger, who was inside an airplane at LaGuardia airport, when it clipped another plane.

NEW YORK -- The holiday season got off to a bumpy start for hundreds of airline passengers when two planes clipped each other at LaGuardia Airport Tuesday morning.

The incident happened around 11:00 a.m. when American Airlines Flight 1104 from Dallas was taxiing to its gate as Southwest Airlines Flight 449 to Denver was departing. Both planes were Boeing 737s. There were no reports of injuries.

"There was a little bit of chaos because there are so many children. I would estimate there were 15 to 20 children on the flight, which is a lot. So there's chaos when it comes to that, but Southwest is handling it fairly well," said passenger Audra Kolker, who took video and pictures of the incident.

PHOTOS: Plane tail clips wing at LaGuardia Airport

Another photograph tweeted by a New York Times editor on board shows an airport worker carrying the broken section, called a winglet. The winglet - a vertical fin at the tip of a wing designed to improve airflow and fuel efficiency - was ripped off the Southwest plane after it made contact with the American jet's left horizontal stabilizer, part of the tail.

The American plane, with 143 passengers and six crew members, made it to gate D7 and passengers left the aircraft via the jet bridge. The plane will be kept in New York overnight for inspection. A replacement jet was used to make the trip back to Dallas, a flight that was delayed about three hours.

The Southwest jet moved out of the taxiway on its own power, according to Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. Marsico said there are no other delays because of this accident and that the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.

American spokesman Joshua Freed said in an email that the airline's plane "was taxiing with the help of ground personnel walking near each wingtip." Southwest refused to say if the airline also had workers on the tarmac assisting its pilots, or if that was required by company policy. Its flight left the gate 23 minutes late and there was a light rain at the time of the accident.

The 143 Southwest passengers and five crew members exited the jet via stairs and were then taken by bus off the tarmac. The aircraft was taken out of service for inspection and repairs. Southwest is finding alternative ways to get the passengers to their destination, according to spokesman Brad Hawkins.