The cause of the cracked windshield was not immediately determined, but a bird strike has been ruled out.

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A Southwest Airlines flight returned to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport shortly after takeoff Wednesday afternoon because of a cracked windshield, said airport spokesman Perry Cooper.

Flight 441, a Boeing 737-700 bound for Phoenix, departed at 1:37 p.m. and landed at 2:23 p.m., according to the website FlightAware.

The plane landed safely and passengers departed the plane, Cooper said.

Port of Seattle fire crews reported the windshield had cracked in the air, he said.

The cause has not been determined, but a bird strike has been ruled out, Cooper said.

Seattle Times staff photographer Bettina Hansen, who was aboard the flight, said the jet had just gone into the clouds past Tacoma when it turned around near Mount Rainier.

Passengers were informed of the problem by the pilot, Hansen said, adding the jet flew back at low altitude.

A Southwest spokesman said in an email that the plane returned as a safety precaution. “We apologize for any inconvenience as we ensure the safe operation of every flight,” the spokesman said.


Hansen said passengers were going to be placed on another Southwest flight and each given a $100 voucher.