Qantas has confirmed that three of the Boeing 737 passenger jets in its fleet were found to have hairline cracks in their wing support structures, forcing the airline to remove the planes from service for repairs.

But Qantas Domestic chief Andrew David downplayed the potential impact on passengers, assuring travelers “We would never fly an aircraft that wasn’t safe.”

In a statement released this morning, Qantas confirmed it has completed safety checks on 33 of its 737NG planes after a safety alert from Boeing.

Earlier this month, the manufacturer issued an international notice about potential issues with the “pickle fork” structure on heavily-used 737NGs worldwide.

Qantas states only aircraft with more than 30,000 takeoffs and landings were required to undergo inspections, but the airline went ahead and checked planes with fewer “cycles” in the past few days anyway.

“Even where these hairline cracks are present they’re not an immediate risk, which is clear from the fact the checks were not required for at least seven months,” David said.

Those three jets are expected to return to service by the end of the year.

When news broke yesterday that the cracks were discovered in one 737 in Qantas’ fleet, the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers’ Association issued calls for all 75 Boeing 737 planes in Qantas’ fleet to be grounded. David reckons that call was out of line.

“Qantas will continue to monitor aircraft that are in scope of the airworthiness directive as inspections fall due,” the statement reads.

The groundings come after Boeing admitted flawed software in its 737 MAX planes – described as a descendant of the 737NG model – resulted in two fatal crashes over the space of several months.

More to come.

Image: Cameron Spencer / Gety Images