Southwest Airlines Faces Record Fines for Negligence

March 10, 2008 09:28 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The FAA will seek record fines of $10.2 million against Southwest Airlines for allegedly operating thousands of flights without conducting routine inspections.

30-Second Summary

The FAA alleges that Southwest flew airplanes without conducting the required fuselage inspections, USA Today reported.  

The FAA said the airline did not examine planes for fatigue-related cracks, and then used the uninspected planes for almost 1,500 more flights, even after realizing the planes hadn’t been checked. All but $200,000 of the proposed $10.2 million penalty is connected with those later flights.

Southwest plans to challenge the fine.

Southwest acknowledged there were cracks on six of the planes, but said it had told the FAA about the problems, took corrective action and thought the matter was closed, reported the Houston Chronicle.

The FAA, in the meantime, is being criticized for its handing of the case.

USA Today reports that a congressional committee, which received information about inadequate FAA enforcement from whistle-blowers. The U.S. Transportation Department are also investigating why the FAA didn't ground the planes after learning about the missed inspections a year ago. 

Southwest's "cozy" ties with the FAA may have triggered the incident, reports The Wall Street Journal. Southwest was allegedly trying to pick and choose which inspectors would work with their fleet last summer.

The incident may raise more questions about overall airline safety.

A NASA airline safety study released last year suggested that pilot fatigue, near collisions and runway interference were more common than previously thought.

No matter who comes out on top in this latest safety incident, many Southwest passengers may be surprised by the FAA’s action. The airline carrier was ranked number one in customer satisfaction in a survey released last year, according to MSNBC.

Headline Links: Southwest accused of flying unsafe planes

Reactions: Southwest responds

Related Topic: Safety is the passenger’s responsibility, too

Background: Customers rate Southwest highly

Problems facing safety inspectors

Reference: NASA alleges problems in airline safety and the FAA


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