It may look like a joke played on passengers, but it's not: an Alaska Airlines' maintenance crew servicing a Boeing 737 cut out part of its wing and then wrote "We Know About This" next to it. Then, they sent the jetliner on a flight.
Imagine being a passenger on that plane and noticing the missing part and the message. Obviously, the plane was apt for flight: the pilots always inspect their aircraft before a flight and give their ok. But think about being on that window seat. Personally, I would just wonder what other parts in that the plane were marked "we know about this." And then freak out.
The message could have been a way to calm the fear of any passengers, but an alleged Delta employee on Reddit claims that this practice is used to reduce maintenance crew's paperwork:
I work for Delta in operations. This is for the ground personnel meeting the arriving aircraft (parkers), who are required to inspect the ship and document any damage found on arrival. Marking apparent damage prevents reports from being filed at each station at which the aircraft arrives. Delta does not do this and we inefficiently file a report tens of times for damage that has already been documented, creating needless redundant emails and work.
In the same thread, a military airplane mechanic confirms about the maintenance paperwork nightmare:
I never worked civilian side but I worked F-16s and A-10s. We had so many writeups for planes we have a special form where writeups go to sit until there is sufficient downtime. Not to mention a pile of writeups of stuff that's currently "being worked." Then you have your engine fan blade map, dent map (for the wing/fuselage/tail) and I'm sure I'm forgetting something.
Alaska Airlines has apologised profusely on Twitter. They admit the message was "inappropriate" and claim that they are "following up" with employees and passengers to see what happened. [Reddit via FlightGlobal]